22 May 2012

Tanzania: Survivor Recounts Mv Bukoba Tragedy

Bukoba — SIXTEEN years after the dreadful MV Bukoba accident which claimed more than 1,000 lives, a survivor of the accident, Mr David Mutensa (42) has advised the government to make May 21 an annual public holiday, to enable Tanzanians to commemorate the event.

On May 21, 1996, MV Bukoba was on a routine journey from Bukoba to Mwanza via Kemondo Bay. Unfortunately, it capsized and sunk in Lake Victoria some eight kilometres away from the city of Mwanza, killing an estimated 1,000 passengers.

Mr Mutensa said on Monday that he was among the passengers on MV Bukoba and was heading for Dar es Salaam on a business trip."I was awakened by the noise made by a terrified passenger at around 6:00 a.m. on May 21, 1996. The passenger told me (shouting) that something had gone seriously wrong as the vessel had lost stability. We were located on the deck in the open.

"I quickly grabbed a life-jacket and put it on. Instantly, I heard a loud bang followed by a massive jolt. I was thrown into the lake. I guess I lost consciousness for three to five minutes. When I regained consciousness I found myself floating.

"The ship had already capsized and was sinking. There was total confusion," he recounted. Mr Mutensa said that the accident happened at around 6.30 a.m. and he was rescued at 11 a.m. At this time, he said, bodies had started floating. The scene was grim and frightening, he said.

Mr Mutensa suggested that would be proper if the government made May 21 a national public holiday to enable Tanzanians to commemorate the tragic incident.

He added that the government should also erect a historical monument at the Kagera Regional Commissioner's offices bearing the names of victims who died in the accident. The names of passengers who survived the accident should also be reflected.

"Since 1996, I have stopped travelling by marine vessels. Every time I avoid travelling on water. I travel by road or by air," he said.Several families lost their loved ones, including the family of Lutanjuka of Rukulungo village in Kiziba Division, Misenyi district. The family lost 23 people who were travelling back to Dar es Salaam after attending a funeral in Rukulungo village.

Salum Mawingu (64), a former Balimi Football Club striker lost 18 relatives. They perished in the MV Bukoba disaster. The relatives were coming from Kamachumu town in Muleba district, where they had gone to attend a send-off party. Some were heading for Dar es Salaam.

Others were going to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

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