Death toll rises to 151: Tanzania president orders arrest of the captain of ferry that capsized


Tanzania: In view of the unfortunate calamity that befell commuters, the captain of the ferry that capsized in Tanzania, killing at least 151 people, has been arrested, President John Magufuli has said amid fears of a rising casualty figure.

On Friday, Magufuli also ordered arrests of all those responsible for the operation of the vessel.

The MV Nyerere sank on Thursday near Ukerewe island on the Tanzanian side of Lake Victoria. The cause of the accident was not immediately clear, but overloading is frequently to blame for such incidents.

The death toll from the disaster rose again on Saturday morning, up from 136 on Friday evening, as rescue workers set out to retrieve more bodies.

The vessel’s capacity was said to be 100 but state television, citing witnesses, reported that more than 200 people were on-board the ferry.

Forty people are known to have survived the capsize.

Hopes of finding more survivors were virtually nil and Magufuli said he expected the death toll to rise.

“[It] is obvious that more bodies are trapped in the capsized vessel,” Tanzanian newspaper The Citizen quoted the president as saying.

“Reports I receive show that even the cargo was far more than the 25 tonnes allowed.”

In his televised address, Magufuli added he had information that the arrested captain was not on board the ship at the time of the incident and that control of the ferry had been left to someone who had not been received proper training for the job.

Four days of national mourning have been announced.On Friday, onlookers bore witness to a grim rescue operation as scores of bodies were pulled out of the waters of Africa’s biggest lake.

Davita Ngenda, a victim’s relative, had already received bad news.

“My son is among the bodies recovered,” she told AFP news agency, weeping. “He had gone with his wife but she has not been found yet.”

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’s opposition accused the government of negligence.

“We have often raised concerns about the poor condition of this ferry, but the government turned a deaf ear. We have repeatedly denounced this negligence,” said John Mnyika, deputy secretary general of the main opposition party Chadema.

President Magufuli warned against using the disaster for political gains.

“We should let authorities do their job and if you have any evidence, you should wait until the matter is taken to court so that they could help the court to deliver justice,” he said.

Capsizes are not uncommon on Lake Victoria and overloading often plays a role in disasters such as these. In 1996, a ferry disaster in the same region killed more than 500 people.

“There’s always activity along the shores of Lake Victoria at any time of day or night,” Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from the Ugandan side of the lake, said.

“People depend on the lake for their survival; fishermen for fishing, others for water transport and trade. The people on the boat that capsized, many of them were on their way home form a market when the boat tipped over.”

Sources: News360, AL JAZEERA AND  AFP


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