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At least 136 dead after overcrowded boat sinks in Lake Victoria

At least 136 people have died after an overloaded ferry sank as it prepared to dock on an island in Lake Victoria, say Tanzanian police.

The MV Nyerere capsized on Thursday afternoon around 50 metres from the dock at Ukara island.

Officials said the ferry’s capacity was 101 people but more than 200 people had reportedly boarded the vessel at Bugolara, on Ukerewe Island, the largest island in the lake.

The craft was also carrying cargo, including sacks of maize, bananas and cement for market.

As well as overloading, it is thought passengers rushed to one side, unbalancing the ferry, as it prepared to dock.

Tanzania’s top police official, Simon Sirro, said 136 bodies had been found as rescue teams, boosted by the addition of more personnel, searched for survivors on the morning after the disaster.

Rescue teams were joined by more rescue workers on Friday
Image:
Rescue teams were joined by more personnel on Friday

At least 40 people have been pulled alive from the water, said the government’s chief secretary John Kijazi, but many more are missing and it is feared more than 200 people in total may have drowned.

Mr Kijazi said that those responsible will face charges.

Relatives crowded on the shore waiting for news of loved ones
Image:
Relatives crowded on the shore waiting for news of loved ones

Officials could not confirm the precise number of people on board at the time, but it is believed as many as 300 were on board the boat when it sank, three times its capacity.

The ageing ferry’s rusting hull and propellers were all that could be seen of the ferry as rescue efforts, which were stopped overnight, resumed on Friday.

People gathered on the shore waiting for news of missing loved ones.

Rescue workers out on the lake
Image:
Rescue workers out on the lake

Tanzania’s president John Magufuli was “deeply saddened” by the disaster and called on Tanzanians to “stay calm during these difficult times”.

The country’s opposition, however, accused the government of “negligence”.

Lake Victoria, which is roughly the size of Ireland, is shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.

Rescue workers are seen at the scene where a ferry overturned in Lake Victoria, Tanzania
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Officials have not confirmed how many people were on board when the ferry sank

Capsizing is not uncommon in the massive lake, and the number of fatalities is often high due to a shortage of life jackets and the fact that many people in the region cannot swim.

At least 500 people were killed when a ferry capsized in Lake Victoria in 1996.

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