LIBREVILLE - Gabon's transport minister stepped down on Thursday, the presidency said, one week after more than 20 people were killed in a ferry accident that sparked outrage across the West African nation.

The presidency's statement did not say why Brice Paillat handed in his notice.

But it followed widespread calls for his resignation over the sinking of the Esther Miracle ferry close to the coastal village of Nyonie on March 9.

The boat was carrying 161 passengers from Libreville to Port-Gentil, although there are unconfirmed reports more people were on board and that it was overloaded with merchandise.

The government has not responded to the allegations or communicated a cause for the incident.

Rescue teams have so far pulled 21 dead bodies from the wreckage and said on Tuesday that 31 passengers were still missing.

Transport infrastructure is poorly developed in Gabon, a sparsely-populated forested country where over 30% of the population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank.

Several railways accidents also took place while Paillat was transport minister.

(Reporting by Gerauds Wilfried Obangome Writing by Sofia Christensen Editing by Christina Fincher)