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Mozambique tragedy: Fake news about cholera sparks frenzy, leading to 100 people drowning, says High Commission

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The High Commissioner of Mozambique to South Africa said residents of Lunga district fled aboard boats and headed out to sea after the fake news circulated.

More than 100 people drowned off the coast of Mozambique when an overloaded fishing boat capsized. Picture: Screengrab, X

AUTHORITIES in Mozambique say disinformation regarding the cholera pandemic sparked a frenzy of people fleeing their homes, heading to an island, where around 100 people drowned on a makeshift ferry.

The High Commissioner of the Republic of Mozambique to South Africa, Maria Manuela Dos Santos Lucas, said residents of Lunga district fled aboard boats and headed out to sea, while fleeing from news regarding the cholera outbreak in the area.

“This morning I spoke to our minister of foreign affairs at home. It is around 100 people, 100 lives that we lost on that ferry. It is really an issue of misinformation. They (the fleeing Mozambicans) were told that there was a lot of cholera coming in, in that district of Lunga, which is in the province of Nampula,” Lucas told broadcaster Newzroom Afrika.

“The fishermen with boats want money and they allowed 120 people to go into that boat. If you see the boat, you cannot believe that 120 people were there. I think it is definitely an issue of disinformation.”

She said officials are still investigating the source of the disinformation that sparked the frenzy.

On Monday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa sent “deep condolences” to President Filipe Nyusi, the government and people of Mozambique, especially families who lost loved ones in the disaster at sea.

Ramaphosa said: “As neighbours, we are deeply saddened by this tragedy and we wish authorities and citizens well in the recovery effort and the search for missing persons.

“We also pray for a speedy recovery for survivors of this incident,” he said.

The Mozambican government has acknowledged South Africa’s comforting words, expressing gratitude for the solidarity during this time of tragedy.

“Thank you very much South Africa for the condolences and sympathies, for the message of condolences that President Cyril Ramaphosa sent to our President Filipe Nyusi. Thank you very much,” Lucas told Newzroom Afrika.

She said the boat owner has been arrested.

The Nampula province has been experiencing cases of cholera. Lucas said the province has also been receiving displaced people coming in from volatile areas in Mozambique, including Cabo Delgado which has been besieged by insurgents.

“People are just running, they are panicking because they are afraid. There are a lot of people that have been killed, there are a lot of people that have lost their families. So information said there is cholera coming, so the people took their families. They lost a lot of families,” she said.

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