Lake Victoria boat tragedy

By Sunday morning, at least 23 bodies had been recovered from Lake Victoria, where a boat capsized on Saturday afternoon.

The accident occurred at Mpatta Sub-county in Mukono District, Uganda. The initial death toll was 10 and authorities said dozens were missing.

“SAD MOMENT”

The bodies were taken to Kampala City Mortuary as rescue efforts carried on.

“It is a sad moment. The Uganda People’s Defence Force and the Uganda Police Force marine units [are continuing with the] search and rescue mission for survivors and those who perished in the boat cruise from KK beach,” army spokesperson, Brigadier Richard Karemire, said in a statement.

There was no confirmed information on the number of passengers who had been on board at time of the incident and the reason why the vessel sank.

However, reports indicated that at least 100 revellers had been on a cruise.

“According to one of the survivors there were more than 90 people on board,” said Asuman Mugenyi, director of operations for the Uganda police.

Police said on Saturday night that they had rescued more than 40 people.

Prince David Wasajja, brother of Buganda King Ronald Mutebi, singer Iryn Namubiru and city businessman John Fredrick Kiyimba, commonly known as Freeman, were among those rescued.

PLEASURE BOAT

The boat, on which party-goers were drinking, dancing and listening to music, sank a short distance from the shore off Mutima in Mukono.

Mr Mugenyi said overloading and bad weather were likely to blame.

“We expect (the number of passengers) is beyond the capacity of the boat. It was overloaded and unfortunately people were drunk,” he said. “We suspect the mechanical condition of the boat and the weather contributed to the sinking.”

“A big storm hit,” said local government official Richard Kikongo. “It can be fine on land but bad weather on the lake.”

VICTIMS

Mr Kikongo said first responders were among the victims.

“Fishermen on two small boats could see that the boat was sinking and went to help. People tried to jump onto the boats but they were too many and those sunk. The rescuers died too,” he said.

A man identified as Derrick Owekyo, a resident of Mpatta Island in Mukono, died while helping the search and rescue teams.

One of the victims was identified as Sheila Mbonimpa, a mother of three and the wife of former Kampala City Authority (KCCA) staff David Ntege, who died of heart attack in October last year.

Ms Mbonimpa was the sister of UBC TV Deputy Managing Director Maurice Mugisha.

Her last Facebook post was an October 14 photograph of her two daughters.

OVERLOADING

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

The Mutima Country Haven resort had been converted to a triage centre and morgue on Sunday morning where police were collecting the swollen bodies of victims

Police spokesman Emilian Kayima said rescue efforts were continuing.

Lake Victoria is the site of many boat disasters. In September, hundreds died when the MV Nyerere passenger ferry sank on the Tanzanian side of Lake Victoria.

With a surface area of 70,000 square kilometres (27,000 square miles), oval-shaped Lake Victoria is roughly the size of Ireland and is shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.

It is not uncommon for ferries to capsize on the lake and the number of fatalities is often high due to a shortage of life jackets and the fact that many local people cannot swim.

In 1966, more than 800 people lost their lives on Lake Victoria when the MV Bukoba sank off the mainland town of Mwanza, according to the Red Cross.

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