Malawi: Hippo Capsizes Canoe in Malawi, Leaving 1 Person Dead, More Than 20 Missing

Blantyre, Malawi — A one-year-old boy is dead and more than 20 people are missing in southern Malawi after a canoe carrying 37 people flipped when it was hit by a charging hippopotamus.

Police say 13 people swam to the shore of the Mtayamoyo River, which in the Chichewa language means “a place where lives are lost.”

The police spokesperson in Malawi’s Nsanje district said the incident happened about 7 a.m. Monday when 37 people were crossing the river on a large canoe to work in their gardens.

Police Sub-Inspector Agnes Zalakoma, speaking to VOA via the WhatsApp, said the death toll is expected to rise as police detectives and rescue teams search for the missing people.

The canoe accident is the third deadly incident on the river in three years.

“Mtayamoyo means ‘death trap,’ said Gladys Ganda, lawmaker for the area. “You cross that river at your own risk because it’s infested with crocodiles, it’s infested with hippos and the canoes that are operating around that area are not motorboats. So, when you are crossing, you actually know that I am doing this at my own risk. I have done that before, and it’s very dangerous to do that.”

Ganda said the accidents could be avoided by constructing a bridge across the river.

“Mtayamoyo bridge has to be constructed and probably other bridges that would take us into the fields,” she said. “But Mtayamoyo bridge is a must, it’s not a luxury anymore. That is a necessity, it has to reduce the deaths that are happening around this area.”