More than 200 civilians in South Sudan have drowned in a Nile ferry accident while fleeing fighting in the town of Malakal, an army spokesman has said. He said women and children were among the victims in Sunday’s disaster. More than 350,000 people have been displaced by the fighting between the South Sudanese government and rebel forces, according to the UN. Rebels say they have captured Malakal, which is the gateway to the oilfields of the Upper Nile region. However, this was denied by an army spokesman, who said the rebels had been pushed back after heavy fighting in the city. “The reports we have are of between 200 to 300 people, including women and children. The boat was overloaded,” army spokesman Philip Aguer told the AFP news agency. “They all drowned. They were fleeing the fighting that broke out again in Malakal,” he added. Malakal is located on the banks of the White Nile – just north of its confluence with the Sobat River. Thousands of civilians have been trying to escape the clashes by crossing the river, but many say they simply cannot afford to pay for a boat, says the BBC’s Andrew Harding in South Sudan. One refugee, Akuch, told our correspondent that she had had to borrow as much as 150 Sudanese pounds (£40; $66) to cross the river.