More than 100 dead after Tanzania ferry sinks in Lake Victoria

Vastavam web: The death toll in a ferry capsize in Lake Victoria climbed to more than 100 on Friday, as Tanzanian rescue workers pressed on with searches to find scores of more people feared drowned. The MV Nyerere may have been carrying as many as 200 passengers — double the ferry’s capacity — when it capsized close to the pier on Ukara Island on Thursday, according to reports on state media. Witnesses reached by AFP said the ferry sank when passengers rushed to one side to disembark as it approached the dock.

Rescue operations were suspended overnight and hopes are fading that more survivors might still be found, a day after the vessel sank. State television cited witnesses reporting that more than 200 people had boarded the ferry at Bugolora, a town on the larger Ukerewe Island, where it was market day when locals said the vessel was usually packed with people and goods. “I have not heard from either my father or my younger brother who were on the ferry. They had gone to the market in Bugolora to buy a school uniform and other supplies for the new school term,” said Domina Maua, who was among those seeking information about loved ones.

“Since my birth, people have gone to their deaths on this lake, but what are we to do? We did not choose to be born here, we have nowhere to go,” he said.
It remains unclear how many people armmbjue still missing. Tanzania’s Electrical, Mechanical and Services Agency, which is responsible for ferry services, said it was unknown how many passengers were aboard the MV Nyerere. The ageing ferry, whose hull and propellers were all that remained visible after it overturned, was also carrying cargo, including sacks of maize, bananas and cement, when it capsized around 50 metres (55 yards) from Ukara dock.

The country’s opposition, however, accused the government of “negligence”. “We have often raised concerns about the poor condition of this ferry, but the government turned a deaf ear. We have repeatedly denounced this negligence,” said John Mnyika, deputy secretary general of Chadema, the main opposition party.Mnyika said overloading was “another failure of the authorities” and criticised “inadequate relief efforts as well as delays” in the rescue operation. With a surface area of 70,000 square kilometres (27,000 square miles), oval-shaped Lake Victoria is roughly the size of Ireland and is shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.

The deadliest such accident in recent decades was in May 1996, when around 800 people died after their ferry sank on the way to Mwanza in Tanzania.Waters in the lake can be rough and boats are frequently poorly maintained, while ferry operators often fail to record the number of passengers on board. Around 20 people were killed in December 2016 when their boat overturned in Lake Victoria as it was carrying passengers to Uganda’s mainland for Christmas holidays.