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.
The death toll rose to over 100 on Friday, according to Tanzania’s police chief Simon Sirro, cited by state radio TBC Taifa.
Mwanza governor John Mongella had earlier said the number of survivors was 40, but it was unclear whether any new survivors had been found since rescue operations resumed with police and army divers on Friday morning.
“Operations are continuing,” he said.
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.
Davita Ngenda, an elderly woman in Ukara, had already received bad news. “My son is among the bodies recovered,” she said, weeping. “He had gone with his wife but she has not been found yet. My God, what did I do to deserve this?”
Sebastian John, a teacher, said such tragedies had become part of life for those living on the lake.
“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 are still missing.
Source: National News Agency