A cargo ship illegally carrying 130 passengers sank off Madagascar's northeastern coast on Monday, killing at least 64 people.

The ship had left the city of Antanambe, in the eastern Mananara North district in the early hours of Monday.
The ship had left the city of Antanambe, in the eastern Mananara North district in the early hours of Monday. (AP)

At least 64 people have died in a boat accident off the coast of northeastern Madagascar and searches were underway for 24 missing passengers.

Fifty survivors were found, the Maritime and River Port Agency said on Wednesday, after the boat sank late on Monday night with 138 people on board.

The vessel, a cargo ship that was not authorised to transport people, was overloaded and water flooded the engine, said Mamy Randrianavony, director of operations at sea at the Maritime and River Port Agency (APMF). 

The ship, Francia, had left the city of Antanambe, in the eastern Mananara North district in the early hours of Monday, said the report. It was heading south toward the port of Soanierana Ivongo.

A hole in the ship's hull is believed to have caused it to sink, he said.

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Three boats from the national navy and the maritime agency are continuing the search for those still missing.
Three boats from the national navy and the maritime agency are continuing the search for those still missing. (TRTWorld)

“According to the information we were able to gather, water entered the engine room. The water started to rise and it swallowed up all the engines,” Jean Edmond Randrianantenaina, director-general of the Maritime and River Port Agency said.

“Then the ship began to sink. We don’t know exactly what time the water started to rise, but our interventions began around 9 am [0600 GMT],” he said.

Three boats from the national navy and the maritime agency are continuing the search for those still missing, he said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies