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At least 100 dead and hundreds more missing after ferry capsized in Tanzania

Officials estimate that more than 400 people may have been onboard the ferry, which was only licensed to carry 100 passengers.

by Tim Hume
Sep 21 2018, 1:59pm

More than 100 bodies have been retrieved from Lake Victoria, Tanzania, after an overcrowded ferry capsized, Tanzanian state radio reported Friday. Hundreds are still feared missing, and the death toll is only expected to rise.

Officials estimate that more than 400 people may have been onboard the ferry, the MV Nyerere, which was only licensed to carry 100 passengers. The vessel capsized Thursday afternoon only a few meters from the dock on Ukerewe, the largest island in Lake Victoria. John Mongella, commissioner for the Mwanza region, told the Associated Press that the death toll could rise as search and rescue operations resumed Friday.

The exact numbers of those on board aren’t known, officials said, because the crew and equipment that recorded that data were lost in the capsize. But according to reports, the ferry was particularly crowded because of a trading day at a local market.

About 40 survivors were saved from the water Thursday before rescue operations were halted due to poor light, officials said Friday. At daybreak, emergency workers resumed their operations searching for survivors and recovering bodies from the lake.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli urged local residents to remain calm, as they anxiously waited for news of missing loved ones.

The Nyerere sinking is just the latest in a series of high-casualty nautical disasters that have struck Tanzania, and overcrowding has often played a role. At least 145 people drowned in the Indian Ocean when a packed ferry sank en route to the island of Zanzibar in 2012; a year earlier, nearly 200 were killed off Zanzibar’s coast.

Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, was also the scene of a horrific ferry capsize in 1996, in which at least 500 people were killed.

Cover image: Rescue workers are seen at the scene where a ferry overturned in Lake Victoria, Tanzania September 21, 2018, in this still image taken from video. (Reuters TV/via REUTERS)