Death toll in Uganda boat accident rises

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The death toll from a boat accident on Lake Victoria over the weekend rose to 33, Ugandan police said, as survivors described moments of heavy drinking and raucous fun before the vessel, slammed by powerful waves, sank.

The Saturday evening tragedy occurred hundreds of metres offshore as the boat, carrying an estimated 100 revellers, was en route from one beach to another in Mukono district near Kampala.

Police spokesman, Patrick Onyango said the number of bodies retrieved from the water stood at 33 on Monday while 27 people were rescued. The death toll was expected to rise, he said.

This is the second deadly accident to happen on Lake Victoria in as many months. In September, more than 200 people died when an overloaded ferry sank on the Tanzanian side of the lake.

Divers from the police and military pressed on with efforts to retrieve bodies while equipment was deployed to pull the boat wreck to shore, Onyango said.

Boat cruises on Lake Victoria, shared by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, are common, with mostly young revellers spending hours on the water partying.

Survivor, Shamirah Nsereko, told local NTV Uganda on Sunday the captain repeatedly warned passengers the boat was listing to one side and taking in water.
“But then you’re talking to people who are so drunk,” she said, adding revellers couldn’t hear the captain’s commands.
“Suddenly we saw one of the loudspeakers fall out, that was when things got really bad.”

On Sunday, President Yoweri Museveni blamed the accident on overloading, saying the boat was carrying more than its capacity of 50.

The owner of the boat and his wife died in the accident, he said.

Another survivor Edward Kateregga, told NTV Uganda the boat’s engine experienced repeated faults before sinking. In the ensuring scramble as the boat sank, people jumped onto a canoe that arrived within minutes to rescue the victims.
“I jumped off it and back into the water after realising it wasn’t going to manage. A minute barely passed before it capsized,” Kateregga said.