Ministers resign after ferry tragedy

Two Senegalese ministers resigned on Tuesday following last week's disaster in which over 1,000 people went missing after the vessel MV Le Joola sank in heavy seas.

Minister of Equipment and Transportation Youssou Sakho and Minister of Armed Forces Youba Sambou resigned in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, a few hours before President Abdoulaye Wade addressed the nation. MV Le Joola was administered by the two ministries.

The government has come under pressure, particularly from relatives of victims in the tragedy, over alleged negligence - especially following early reports that the vessel was not designed for sea transport.

"I decided to retire from the government to allow the head of state and the inquiry commission to work freely", Senegalese daily newspapers quoted Sambou as saying.

President Wade, in a speech to the nation during which he accepted the ministers' resignation, said a full technical investigation would take place.

Rescue teams have virtually abandoned the search, saying it is unlikely any more bodies will be found.

The Senegalese government has announced that it will establish four burial grounds in commemoration of those victims whose bodies have not been recovered: two in Ziguinchor, southern Senegal, from which the boat departed; one in Dakar; and one in The Gambia, off the coast of which the tragedy occurred.

MV Le Joola, which had been out of commission for more than a year, was declared safe to sail again in early September. The vessel shuttled between Zinguinchor in the Casamance region of southern Senegal and Dakar.

It constituted an alternate to roads for travel from Casamance, where banditry and landmines make road transport unsafe.