Lake Victoria Tragedy: Death Toll Rises To 27

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni said on Sunday that a cruise boat which capsized on Lake Victoria a day earlier, killing at least 29 people, was carrying more than twice its capacity of 50.

Although police spokesperson Emilian Kayima yesterday said marine police had rescued 40 people who were on board, deputy army spokesperson Lt Col. Deo Akiki today said only 27 people were rescued alive.

Ugandan police spokesman Patrick Onyango said there was bad weather at the time of the accident.

The vessel was believed to be overcrowded with almost 100 passengers, said Zurah Ganyana, a senior police officer at the scene.

"13 bodies confirmed dead, taken to City Mortuary".

"Such boats can not carry more than 50 people", said lawmaker Johnson Muyanja, who represents part of the district of Mukono, the site of the accident.

More than 90 passengers were on the boat, leading officials to believe that the death toll will rise. Overhead the police deployed a helicopter to help search for more bodies that might have washed up by the shoreline - but they have given up hope that they will find any more survivors.

Among the dead are local fishermen who rushed to rescue people from the sinking ferry that was reportedly taking in water through a hole at the base after it was perforated by the tractor that was used to "push" the ferry into the waters from it's fix centre.

One reason many people died so close to shore was likely "intoxication", said Asuman Mugenyi, national director of police operations. "Help us!' and the boat was sinking very quickly", said Sam Tukei, one of several local men who used fishermen's canoes to rescue people.

Nearby residents said the vessel was hired out for parties every weekend and often overloaded with revellers.

"I've seen a lot of accidents but nothing as bad as this", said Matovo, who -- along with oth er witnesses -- had recently seen the boat being fixed up. In September, hundreds died when the MV Nyerere passenger ferry sank on the Tanzanian side of Lake Victoria.

  • Tracy Klein