Tan­za­nian ferry death toll rises to 224

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - World - AP— XIN­HUA AFP— AP— XIN­HUA

UKARA, Tanzania — Griev­ing fam­i­lies on Sun­day started bury­ing vic­tims of Tanzania’s dev­as­tat­ing ferry dis­as­ter, with more than 220 con­firmed dead after the crowded boat cap­sized in Lake Vic­to­ria.

Hopes were fad­ing of find­ing any more sur­vivors three days after the ferry sank on Thurs­day, even after res­cuers pulled out an en­gi­neer who had man­aged to find refuge in an air pocket in the up­turned ves­sel.

“We are go­ing to start bury­ing bod­ies not yet iden­ti­fied by rel­a­tives,” said John Mon­gella, gov­er­nor of Mwanza re­gion, where the MV Ny­erere ferry had been com­ing in to dock on the is­land of Ukara.

“The (burial) cer­e­mony will be over­seen by Prime Min­is­ter Kas­sim Ma­jaliwa, in the pres­ence of clergy mem­bers of dif­fer­ent de­nom­i­na­tions,” Mon­gella said on Satur­day on the TBC 1 pub­lic tele­vi­sion sta­tion.

Divers were also set to con­tinue their grim search in the wa­ters around the boat, where late Satur­day they were watched by anx­ious crowds gath­ered just me­ters away on Ukara’s shore.

The state broad­caster said 224 peo­ple had been con­firmed dead, while 41 es­caped the tragedy — a to­tal fig­ure far above the of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity of the boat, which was in the­ory only able to carry 101 pas­sen­gers.

One sur­vivor was an en­gi­neer who shut him­self into a “spe­cial room” with enough air for him to stay alive un­til he was found, said lo­cal law­maker Joseph Mkundi.

Trans­port Min­is­ter Isack Kamwelwe said on Satur­day that 172 of the vic­tim’s bod­ies had been iden­ti­fied by rel­a­tives.

State tele­vi­sion cited wit­nesses re­port­ing that more than 200 peo­ple had boarded the ferry at Bu­golora, a town on the larger Uk­erewe Is­land. It was mar­ket day, which usu­ally sees the ves­sel packed with peo­ple and goods.

Wit­nesses said the ferry sank when pas­sen­gers rushed to one side to dis­em­bark as it ap­proached the dock. Oth­ers blamed the cap­tain, say­ing he had made a brusque ma­neu­ver.

Dozens of wooden coffins lined the shore on Satur­day, wait­ing to be seen by fam­i­lies as po­lice and vol­un­teers sought to keep hun­dreds of cu­ri­ous lo­cals at bay.

Aisha Wil­liam came to col­lect the body of her hus­band. “He left on Tues­day around noon, but he never came home. I do not know how I am go­ing to raise my two chil­dren,” she said.

Ahmed Caleb, a 27-year-old trader, railed at a tragedy “which could have been pre­vented. I’ve lost my boss, friends, peo­ple I went to school with,” he said.

The ag­ing ves­sel, whose hull and pro­pel­lers were all that re­mained vis­i­ble above wa­ter, was also car­ry­ing cargo, in­clud­ing sacks of maize, ba­nanas and ce­ment, when it cap­sized.

Tan­za­nian Pres­i­dent John Magu­fuli on Fri­day or­dered the ar­rest of the ferry’s man­age­ment and de­clared four days of na­tional mourn­ing.

In a speech broad­cast on TBC 1, Magu­fuli said “it ap­pears clear that the ferry was over­loaded”, adding that the govern­ment would cover the fu­neral ex­penses of the vic­tims.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Rel­a­tives of the vic­tims of the MVNy­erere ferry wait for news and ob­serve res­cue ef­forts on Ukara Is­land, Tanzania, on Satur­day.

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