25 November 2018

Uganda - Scores Feared Drowned After Party Boat Capsizes On Lake Victoria

Photo: Jessica Sabano/Daily Monitor
Police and defence force soldiers load the bodies of boat cruise accident victims on to waiting trucks. Photo by Jessica Sabano

At least 30 people are confirmed dead and 60 more feared drowned after an overloaded party cruise boat capsized on Lake Victoria in Uganda. One survivor said the boat's operator had alerted some passengers to a leak.

Ugandan police raised a death toll of 10 issued in the immediate aftermath Saturday evening and raised the death toll to at least 30 on Sunday.

They said that dozens of people were rescued at the scene near the capital Kampala, while dozens more were believed trapped in the fully submerged vessel.

The cruise boat, on which authorities estimate that close to 150 people were drinking, dancing and listening to music, sank a short distance from the shore off Mutima in Mukono District.

The deputy police spokesman, Patrick Onyango, attributed the accident to both overloading and the weather. "The boat was overloaded and secondly there was bad weather," he told Reuters news agency.

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

Leak detected

Some survivors recounted their ordeal on social media in the wake of the incident.

One Facebook Live user said the boat's operator had detected a leak and pleaded with passengers to sit on one side to balance the vessel some 10 minutes before it capsized. The passengers were too distracted by the party atmosphere to heed the warning, she said.

Senkeezi Francis said his swimming skills had saved his life. He and others were plucked from the waters by rescuers at KK beach in Ggaba on the outskirts of Kampala.

President Yoweri Museveni offered his condolences to the victims and said his government will introduce a new electronic registration and tracking system for all boats on Uganda's lakes in a bid to prevent such incidents.

East Africa's 'deadly lakes'

East Africa's major lakes have been the scene of multiple boat accidents in recent years.

More than 200 people died Lake Victoria in September when an overloaded ferry capsized near the Tanzanian coast.

At least 500 people were killed when a ferry capsized on the same lake, which borders Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, in 1996.

(AFP, Reuters)

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