RIO DE JANEIRO — A commuter boat carrying more than 100 passengers flipped and sank Thursday in northeast Brazil, killing at least 18 people and leaving dozens missing in rough ocean waters.
It was the second fatal accident involving passenger boats this week in the South American nation, where aquatic travel of all kinds is common.
Navy Lt. Col. Flavio Almeida told The Associated Press that the vessel went down in the morning while traversing the Bay of All Saints off the coast of the city of Salvador.
Twenty-one people were rescued by naval teams, and private boats also motored in and helped an unknown number of survivors.
“Some passengers were able to swim to shore. Others were picked up,” Almeida said. “An investigation into what happened will be launched, but at this point we are still in the middle of the rescue.”
Authorities reported earlier that 22 people had died but later lowered the toll to 18.
Globo News showed rescuers pulling people from the bay and anxious family members waiting for news in the Salvador terminal where the boat was expected.
In a statement the Bahia state health department said 34 people were being treated for injuries. An unconscious 1-year-old who initially responded to resuscitation efforts died in an ambulance en route to a hospital, it added.
Survivor Edvaldo Santos de Almeida told the G1 news portal that a large wave tipped the boat during a heavy rainstorm.
“There were a lot of people” on board, he said. “It took a long time to be rescued. We were in the water for two hours.”
Authorities said there were 120 people on board when the boat sank.
Matheus Ramos told the daily newspaper Folha de S. Paulo he was sitting down the boat suddenly flipped on top of him, banging his left shoulder.
“When I came up, a tarp was on top of my face,” Ramos said. “I had to rip it to breathe.”
Salvador, one of Brazil’s most famous cities, is located on a peninsula near a handful of islands. Each day thousands of workers, students and other people commute on boats between the city and the islands.
The vessel was travelling between Vera Cruz on Itaparica Island and Salvador, about an 8-mile (13-kilometre) stretch.
The accident took place two days after a passenger boat sank on the Xingu River in the northern state of Para, leaving at least 21 dead.
Authorities initially said more than 70 were on that boat when it sank late Tuesday. But on Thursday, as recovery efforts continued, authorities revised the number of passengers down to 48. Of those, 23 had been rescued, meaning at least four were still missing.