Hundreds dead in South Sudan Ferry Accident

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South SudanJUBA, JAN 14— Rebel forces in South Sudan attacked Malakal, the capital of the oil-rich state of Upper Nile, again on Tuesday, amid reports of a deadly ferry accident that claimed the lives of more than 200 people trying to flee sectarian fighting.

Col. Philip Aguer, a spokesman for the South Sudanese military, said the people on board were all civilians, including women and children, who were trying to escape the advance on the town of Malakal. “The boat was overloaded,” Colonel Aguer said. The circumstances of the accident were not clear. The recent accident is the worst reported thus far.

“Today there is fighting anew” in and around Malakal, said Toby Lanzer, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, in a message on Twitter on Tuesday. He said the number of civilians seeking protection at the United Nations base near there “has soared from 10,000 to 19,000.”

The United Nations said in late December that more than 1,000 people had been killed since fighting broke out in South Sudan on Dec. 15. The International Crisis Group said last week that the number of fatalities was approaching 10,000.

The humanitarian crisis only continues to grow. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, around 413,000 people are internally displaced and 66,500 are seeking refuge at United Nations bases around the country. More than 74,300 have already fled the country, with 4,000 to 5,000 arriving daily in neighbouring Uganda alone, four out of five of them children.

“We all assume that the humanitarian situation will get worse,” said Jose Barahona, country director in South Sudan for Oxfam. “There are new people displaced.” Access for humanitarian aid groups has been difficult in the rapidly shifting security situation. In places like Malakal, he said, it can be safe one day and dangerous the next, as offensives and counter offensives take shape.

“Due to the uncertainty of military operations, we have been deploying and evacuating people the whole time,” said Mr. Barahona. “There are very few places in the country where we can actually go.”

At least three aid workers have been killed so far. Dozens of humanitarian aid compounds have been looted of supplies and dozens of their vehicles have been stolen.

Although the United Nations has not officially raised its estimate of the death toll, the organization said in a statement on Sunday that interviews and investigations revealed “horrific allegations of atrocities by anti government forces against civilians and surrendering soldiers, including summary executions, torture, sexual violence and ethnically targeted killing.”

The United Nations mission said it “deplores these horrendous acts of violence and utter disregard for human life and dignity.”

Diplomats from across the region and around the world have urged, cajoled and begged the two sides to negotiate a cease-fire, thus far to no avail. Over the weekend, the United States special envoy, Donald Booth, met with Mr. Machar at an undisclosed location. But there has been no breakthrough.

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