African Ferry Victims Lived Submerged for 2 Days
Entombed alive for two days inside the submerged hull of the Lake Victoria ferry, MV Bukoba, an African businessman wrote a desperate last note.
“We sealed the door with bedsheets, and the only thing we need is oxygen. We lived until the 23rd, but now we are finished.”
The vessel sank May 21 with as many as 1,000 people on board. Only 114 people survived.
Aga Khan Volunteers disclosed the note over the weekend as Tanzania abandoned efforts by divers to recover any more of the badly decomposed bodies, leaving uncertainty over the final death toll in the worst shipping disaster on Africa’s largest lake.
With 403 bodies recovered, divers said Sunday that “hundreds and hundreds” of others remain, too badly decomposed to be brought to the surface.
The volunteers said the businessman wrote the note in Swahili and stowed it away carefully in his clothes. It was found when his body was recovered from a second-class cabin.
Bringing up the bodies has been an increasingly traumatizing operation for divers from Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa.
The divers said they were experiencing worsening health and psychological problems while working on the wreck 90 feet below the surface. At that depth, they were able to spend only 15 or 20 minutes at a time in the wreck.
The Bukoba’s captain and eight officials have been charged with the murders of 615 people. The death count, as reported by Tanzania Railways, is regarded by some survivors as well below the real toll.