Sudan: Over 15,000 sheep drown after ship sinks

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More than 15,000 sheep drowned Sunday in the Sudanese Red Sea port of Suakin after the ship carrying them sank, local officials said.

Saleh Selim, head of the livestock department of the Sudanese Chamber of Exporters, said the sheep had been loaded at the port of Suakin, a trading hub for many African countries some 800 km northeast of Khartoum.

Early Sunday, the Badr 1, bound for Saudi Arabia, sank at the port "while carrying 15,800 sheep (...) well beyond its maximum load," said a local official who requested anonymity.

According to reports, the vessel was transporting the animals from Sudan to Saudi Arabia when it sank.

The ship with initially had the capacity to accommodate 9000 animals had been modified to carry 15000, another port official said.

- Environmental impact -

There are fears of the possible «environmental impact after the drowning of thousands of animals" as well as a disruption of the port's activities.

700 sheep were able to be pulled out of the sea, although "they are in bad condition",  Mr Selim said.

According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden region are increasingly being identified as potential climate refuges for coral reefs.

Omar Bechir al-Khalifa, president of the Sudanese Chamber of Exporters, said the ship took several hours to sink, stressing that the vessel and its cargo "could have been saved".

The total value of the livestock being transported is valued at about "four million dollars", said Selim, who called for an investigation to determine the cause of the sinking.

The port of Suakin is located 60 km south of Port Sudan, the country's main port. On 25 May, its docks were ravaged by fire. An investigation was opened to determine the causes.

Sudan's Red Sea ports are the transit point for imports and exports from Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic, as well as oil from South Sudan.

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