16 killed as child party boat sinks

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The Independent Online

A boat carrying 20 partygoers celebrating the birthday of five-year-old twins sank overnight in a lake near Albania's capital, killing 16 people, including the two children, police said today.

The boat belonged to a restaurant on the shores of Lake Farka, about five kilometres east of Tirana. It had a capacity of seven, but was transporting 20 people from the restaurant when it sank shortly after midnight, Tirana police spokeswoman Alma Katragjini said.

Authorities believe the boat capsized because it was overloaded. They shut down the restaurant today, and were investigating whether those on board had been drunk and could have caused the vessel to capsize.

Four people survived, Katragjini said. By 3am, authorities had recovered 16 bodies from the lake: seven men, seven women and the five-year-old twin boys, she said.

Fourteen of the dead belonged to two families. Two other bodies were not immediately identified, but were believed to be those of family friends, Katragjini said.

Outside Tirana morgue, men wept and held each other as relatives and friends gathered to claim the bodies and arrange funerals for them later in the day or tomorrow.

Interior Minister Bujar Nishani went to the morgue to express his condolences to the victims' families and to offer any help to ease their grief.

Nishani described the sinking as an accident, and said authorities were investigating the exact causes.

Lakeside and seaside restaurants are popular in Albania, but most are within easy reach of roads. The one on Lake Farka was more remote, and a small boat was used to ferry passengers to it.

The restaurant owner, identified as Afrim Dibra, was believed to have been driving the boat and was among the dead. Albanian television Vizion+ broadcast an old interview with Dibra in which he said he decided to open the lakeside restaurant after seeing a similar one on the shores of Lake Ioannina in northern Greece, where he had spent several years as an immigrant.

In the interview, he said customers would use a boat to get to the restaurant, but that the trip would take only a few minutes.

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