By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Two boat accidents in less than a week in the North-Northeastern region of Brazil left more than 39 people dead and dozens missing, according to Brazilian authorities. Officials say they will continue to search for victims in both accidents, one in Para state and another in Bahia.
Rescue workers continue to look for five people who are believed to have been on the boat which sank in the Xingu River in the Amazon region of Para state on Tuesday. Officials say they recovered another eleven bodies on Thursday, making the total number of dead 21.
The ship ran into trouble in a region known as Ponte Grande do Xingu. The vessel left the city of Santarém for Vitoria do Xingu with over fifty people on board. According to officials the ship’s captain did not have authorization to carry passengers in his vessel.
According to survivors a waterspout appeared out of nowhere tipping the boat to one side, “The boat started to crack and everyone went to the bottom,” survivor Bruno Costa, 29, told G1 news. According to Costa, a tarp placed on the boat to protect the passengers from the rain made it more difficult for more people to jump from the boat when it began to sink.
“The tarp prevented many people from leaving. I managed to rescue a two-year-old child, but I did not have a life vest, and neither did the child,” concluded Costa.
The second accident occurred in the busy Todos os Santos Bay, in Bahia’s capital Salvador on Thursday morning, with eighteen confirmed deaths as of Thursday afternoon.
The boat was carrying more than 100 passengers when it ran into trouble trying to cross from Mar Grande, in the tourist enclave of Itaparica island, to Salvador.
Brazil’s President, Michel Temer, issued a statement on Thursday mourning the deaths and making available the resources of the federal government “in the search and support for survivors” as well as in determining the causes and culprits of both accidents.
“Measures to determine the causes of accidents and punish those responsible are being taken at all three levels of government, said the note released by the President’s Communication Secretariat.