Twenty-two people have lost their lives while more than 60 are feared drowned after a pleasure boat sank on Lake Victoria, Ugandan police said Sunday.
The vessel which was carrying close to a hundred revellers sank because of bad weather on Saturday in what is the latest deadly incident to affect passenger boats on Africa’s largest lake.
The boat which had party-goers who were drinking, dancing and listening to music, sank a short distance from the shore off Mutima in Mukono District, close to the country’s capital city Kampala. Mugenyi said overloading and bad weather were probably the cause.
“We expect the number of passengers is beyond the capacity of the boat. It was overloaded and unfortunately people were drunk,” Mugenyi said. “We suspect the mechanical condition of the boat and the weather contributed to the sinking.”
“A big storm hit,” said local government official Richard Kikongo. “It can be fine on land but bad weather on the lake.”
Kikongo said first responders were among the victims. “Fishermen on two small boats could see that the boat was sinking and went to help. People tried to jump onto the boats but they were too many and those sunk. The rescuers died too,” he said.
Residents from nearby said the vessel was hired out for parties every weekend and usually overloaded with party goers. The Mutima Country Haven resort had been converted to a triage centre and morgue on Sunday morning where police were collecting thebodies of victims which were swollen.
Police spokesman Emilian Kayima said rescue efforts would go on.
Lake Victoria is the site of many boat disasters. In September, hundreds died when the MV Nyerere passenger ferry sank on the Tanzanian side of Lake Victoria.
With a surface area of 70,000 square kilometres (27,000 square miles), oval-shaped Lake Victoria is roughly the size of Ireland and is shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
It is not unusual for ferries to capsize on the lake and the number of fatalities is often high due to a shortage of life jackets and the fact that many local people cannot swim.