More than 200 civilians crossing the Nile River to flee a warzone in South Sudan died Sunday when their overloaded ferry sank, an army spokesperson said Tuesday.
The group was fleeing clashes in Malakal, said the spokesman, a town along the Nile that has shifted hands multiple times during the nearly month-long ethnically charged battle between rebel forces and the government.
Thousands of civilians have tried to cross the Nile to escape the fighting, often paying high prices for the ferry ride, BBC reports.
The United Nations estimates that more than 1,000 people have died since the conflict began Dec. 15 and more than 350,000 people have been displaced. In Malakal, some 9,000 civilians have recently sought refuge at a regional U.N. base, according to the BBC.