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Côte d'Ivoire: Abidjan in Mourning After Tragic Bus Accident

Friday August 5, 2011, was a tragic day for the West African country of Côte d'Ivoire. Forty people were killed and nine injured when a bus belonging to the Société des Transports Abidjanais (SOTRA), plunged from a bridge into the Ebrié lagoon with all its passengers aboard, whilst travelling between the Vridi and Adjamé areas of the capital Abidjan. The government has decreed three days of national mourning as a result of the incident [All links in French].

Ivorian student Wilfried Toussine (@Toussine), broke the news online with a short message on his blog early on the morning of the accident:

Un accident s’est produit ce matin (05 Août 2011) à Abidjan. Il s’agit d’un bus de la Sotra (Société des transports Abidjanais)  qui a chuté ce matin dans la lagune Ebrié depuis le pont Felix Houphouët Boigny

An accident happened this morning (05 August 2011) in Abidjan. A bus from the Sotra company (Society of Abidjan Transport) fell this morning into the Ebrié lagoon from the Felix Houphouët Boigny bridge

Toussine then set up a live blog for the day to document the rescue operations. The live blog provides links to an audio file of an eyewitness describing the circumstances, a video of the early rescue operations posted on Facebook by Emmanuel René Oyoua, as well as links to pictures of the accident scene.

The news spread quickly via social media networks, and masses of passers-by converged on the bridge, making the work of rescuers even more difficult. The bus accident is thought to have been caused by the bus driver swerving  to avoid another vehicle on the bridge.

Abidjan, August 5, 2011: Rescuers evacuate victims and casualties after the tragedy on the Houphouet Boigny bridge. Image by @toussine on Twitpic, republished with permission.

Abidjan, August 5, 2011: Rescuers evacuate victims and casualties after the tragedy on the Houphouet Boigny bridge. Image by @toussine on Twitpic, republished with permission.

Citizen news website avenue225 published an article on the accident ‘Drame sur le pont FHB : Un bus de la sotra (ligne 19) dans la lagune‘ (Tragedy on the FHB bridge: A Sotra Bus (line 19) in the lagoon). The website was not able to clarify many of the questions that Ivorians have been asking, while waiting for the conclusions of the official enquiry:

Que s’est-il réellement passé ? Personne ne le sait encore avec précisions. Mais selon des témoignages, c’est un peu après 5h 30 que le bus reliant Adjamé à Vridi et qui était plein à craquer, aurait effectué une mauvaise manœuvre pour se retrouver totalement immergé dans l’eau. Rien de précis sur les circonstances de l’accident.

What really happened? No one knows yet for sure. But according to eyewitnesses, a little after 5.30 am,  the bus linking Adjamé and Vridi, which was packed to the hilt, did a faulty manoeuvre and found itself immerged in water. Nothing precise yet on the circumstances of the accident.

Newspaper in mourning - the frontpage of the Ivorian daily, Fraternité Matin

Newspaper in mourning – the frontpage of the Ivorian daily, Fraternité Matin

On the following day, Ivorian dailies, such as the government owned daily Fraternité Matin (right) published black front pages dedicated to the accident.

Ivorian netizens have created Facebook profile pictures and Twitter avatars to mourn the victims of this accident. Cyriac Gbogou's Twitter account sports one of those avatars: a RIP mention on a black background. A hashtag was created on Twitter to exchange news about the tragedy involving  bus n°19 and the unfolding enquiry: #civbus19.

Mourning avatar

Mourning avatar

Mourning avatar

Mourning avatar








Two days after the fatal crash, which was not, incidentally, the only bus accident that day in Abidjan, Ivorians are still left without the answers to the numerous questions tormenting them: Why? How? Who is responsible? Are the SOTRA bus company still reliable? Why were the firemen so poorly equipped?

The Ivorian government has reacted promptly and President Alassane Ouattara personally visited the scene of the tragedy. Three days of national mourning have been declared and the celebrations planned for the country's 51st Independence Day, on Sunday, August 7, have been toned down, out of respect for the victims.

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