Rescuers have fished many bodies after a ferry sank on Lake Victoria in Tanzania on Thursday, and the toll loomed heavy on Saturday.
At least 207 people died in the wreck of the MV Nyerere ferry on Thursday in southern Tanzania’s Lake Victoria, according to a new report released by public radio on Saturday, citing Tanzanian Transport Minister Isack Kamwelwe. “So far, the number of people who lost their lives is 207,” said the radio, citing the minister who coordinates the search operations since Friday. The previous report, released at midday by a local MP, reported 170 dead and 41 survivors.
Thirty-seven people were rescued, regional police chief Jonathan Shana told Reuters. Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Friday ordered the arrest of those responsible for the tragedy and announced four days of national mourning. Overloaded with passengers and goods, the MV Nyerere capsized Thursday afternoon just a few tens of meters from the island of Ukara. As they approached the landing stage, passengers moved to the front of the ship to prepare for disembarkation. This movement seems to have unbalanced the boat, which then turned around.
In the past, shipwrecks in this region of the Great Lakes have most often been attributed to overcrowded boats, and the balance sheets are that most passengers can not swim. Evoking “negligence”, Tanzanian President John Magufuli ordered Friday night that “all those involved in the management of the ferry” be arrested. “Those responsible will be absolutely punished,” he promised.
While the vessel’s capacity is some 100 passengers, witnesses reported on public television that about twice of them were on board the ferry, but authorities have not confirmed this number. Passenger registers are most often incomplete on ships crisscrossing the largest lake in Africa. The MV Nyerere ferry was the link between Ukara Island and Ukerewe Island, which is home to Bugolora, where people from Ukara regularly come to stock up.
In the Tanzanian population, sadness gradually gave way to anger and indignation, which the promises of measures of President Magufuli could not calm. For while navigation can be difficult on the largest lake in Africa, where it is often done on dilapidated ships, the authorities are often not very concerned about safety.
“On the first day, while there was still hope of finding survivors, the rescue operations were suspended during the evening, because of the darkness (because) our maritime rescue is not equipped to work from night, “said Felician Tarimo, a young student from Moshi (north). And to joke: “As if our rulers were expecting accidents to happen only during the day …”
In 1996, some 800 people, according to the Red Cross, were killed in the sinking of the overcrowded Bukoba ferry a few nautical miles off Mwanza.