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131 dead after ferry capsizes in Tanzania

By PETER NYANJE and KRISTIN PALITZA
dpa

September 21. 2018 10:01PM
Rescuers search to retrieve bodies from the water after a ferry overturned off the shores of Ukerewe Island on Lake Victoria, Tanzania, Sept. 21, 2018. (REUTERS/Stringer)

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania — At least 131 bodies have been recovered from Tanzania’s Lake Victoria after a ferry capsized, with dozens still missing, Transport Minister Isack Kamwelwe said Friday.

About a hundred people were rescued after the packed ferry, the MW Nyerere, capsized Thursday afternoon, regional commissioner John Mongella said.

Initial estimates showed that the ferry was carrying more than 300 people between Bugolora and Ukara Island, but the exact number of passengers remains unknown.

Expert divers had arrived on the scene from different parts of the country on Friday morning to speed up rescue operations, according to Mongella.

The dead bodies will be laid out for identification on Friday evening, Kamwelwe said.

The vessel sank not far from the dock near Ukara Island in Ukerewe district, according to Temesa, the company that maintains the country’s ferries.

The ferry capsized, trapping many of the passengers inside.

The reason for the disaster was still under investigation on Friday.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli announced three days of mourning following the accident and called for the arrest of the person who was in charge of the ferry on the day of the accident.

Pope Francis also said he was “saddened” by the tragic accident.

“His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his heartfelt solidarity with those who mourn the loss of their loved ones and who fear for the lives of those still missing,” the Vatican said in a statement.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent his condolences to the victims’ relatives, the government and the citizens of Tanzania, adding that the United Nations stands in solidarity with the country at this difficult time and would be ready to help if necessary, Guterres spokesman Stephan Dujarric said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote Magufuli, saying: “I would like to express to you and to the citizens of Tanzania my sincere condolences and my deepest sympathy.”

Accidents are not uncommon on Lake Victoria, which straddles Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, as well as on the Indian Ocean, which borders Tanzania.

Poor maintenance and overloading is often the cause of accidents.

In 2011, 192 people were killed when a heavily overloaded ferry capsized between the country’s most populous city, Dar es Salaam, and the tourist island of Unguja (referred to informally as Zanzibar).


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