At least 136 bodies have been retrieved after a ferry sank on Lake Victoria, Tanzania’s top police official Simon Sirro said on Friday. Scores more were still feared missing as rescuers searched for survivors on the morning after the disaster.
The ferry m.v. Nyerere capsized on Thursday afternoon just a few metres from the dock on Ukerewe, the lake’s biggest island, which is part of Tanzania. Initial estimates suggested that the ferry was carrying more than 300 people.
Thirty-seven people had been rescued, Jonathan Shana, the regional police commander for the port of Mwanza on the south coast of the lake told Reuters by phone on Friday.
Mr. Shana said more rescuers had joined the operation when it resumed at daylight on Friday. He did not give exact numbers.
The precise number of those aboard the ferry when it capsized was hard to establish since crew and equipment had been lost, officials said on Thursday. Witnesses said the ferry sank when passengers rushed to one side to disembark as it approached the dock.
“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.
‘Part of life’
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.
Tanzania has been hit by several major ferry disasters over the years. At least 500 people were killed when a ferry capsized in Lake Victoria in 1996. In 2012, 145 people died when a ferry sank off the shore of Tanzania’s Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar.
(With AFP inputs)