A toddler has died after a boat ferrying more than 30 villagers across the Shire River in Malawi’s Nsanje district was attacked by a hippo, causing it to overturn, authorities said.
A police spokesperson, Agnes Zalakoma, said the incident happened early Monday and 23 of the boat’s 37 passengers were missing and feared dead in the water, which is infested with crocodiles and hippos.
“Well-wishers managed to rescue 13 people while 23 others went missing and the dead body of the toddler has been found,” Zalakoma said in a statement Monday, adding that the deceased child was only one-year-old.
Rescuers are continuing searching for the missing persons, Zalakoma’s statement added.
Zalakoma told CNN Tuesday that it was dangerous to cross the river and accidents are common.
“It is too dangerous because it (the river) is too shallow and in this river there are crocodiles that most of the time attack people and also hippopotamus that cause incidents like the one we’re dealing with,” Zalakoma said.
According to a lawmaker for the Nsanje district, Gladys Ganda, the villagers were crossing the Shire River to get to their farms at the Malawian border with Mozambique when their boat was hit by a hippo.
Hippos are one of the world’s most dangerous animals, and they can snap a canoe in half with their strong jaws, according to National Geographic.
They are found naturally in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, especially in east and southern Africa.
Hippo attacks are also common in sub-Saharan Africa. In December, a two-year-old Ugandan boy was attacked by a hippo which swallowed half of his body before spitting him out, Uganda’s police said.