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World & Nation

Burials begin in Tanzania as deaths from capsized ferry rise to 224

Coffins for some of the victims of the capsized MV Nyerere passenger ferry are laid in a line during
Coffins for some of the victims of the capsized passenger ferry Nyerere are set out during a mass burial ceremony on Ukara Island, Tanzania, on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018.
(Andrew Kasuku / Associated Press)

Relatives wept in grief Sunday at the mass burial in Tanzania of many of the 224 people who drowned when a ferry in capsized on Lake Victoria.

Colorfully painted coffins were lined up for burial on Ukara Island. Grieving family members places wreaths of flowers on the coffins.

The overloaded boat tipped over Thursday as it got to about 55 yards from the island’s dock. People carrying their goods from a busy market day prepared to disembark, unbalancing the ferry, which capsized. Horrified fishermen and others watched from the shore.

One survivor said he is still searching for his daughter.

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“My child might have been found, but I have not seen her,” said Magesa Chibuga, in Swahili. “I am therefore waiting for this ferry to be lifted from the water so that I can see whether she is there or not. But I am feeling very bad. I thank God I have found my wife, but the child is still missing. So God has every plan.”

Chibuga described how he survived when the boat capsized.

“I heard people shouting `Accident, accident!’ I was seated with my bag. I put it on my chest, removed my phone and put it in my bag, and then jumped. After I jumped, I found a lifesaver, grabbed it and that’s how I escaped.”

At least 40 people were rescued, officials said.

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No additional survivors were likely to be found and search efforts had ended, Defense Minister Venance Mabeyo told reporters at the scene. He said officials would continue working to identify the dead. However, the total number of deaths may never be known as no one is sure how many people were on the overcrowded ferry, which officials said had a capacity of 101.

Tanzania’s Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa led mourners at the funeral service.

“Our country has been hit by a big tragedy. We lost brothers, relatives and friends. Our call is for us to be united during this hard time and understand that our countrymen have been left by beloved parents, brothers, sisters, children and friends in this big tragedy,” he said. “So we need to console them instead of feeding them with bad words. Let’s leave the government and relevant authorities to do their work.”

On Saturday rescuers found a survivor two days after the tragedy. The man was identified as an engineer of the ferry who had locked himself in the engine room. Video footage showed the man, barefoot and head lolling, being carried quickly along a busy street by medical workers and military personnel as a siren wailed. His condition was not immediately known.

President John Magufuli has ordered the arrests of those responsible for the tragedy. He said the ferry captain already had been detained after leaving the steering to someone who wasn’t properly trained, the Citizen newspaper reported.

“This is a great disaster for our nation,” Magufuli told the nation in a televised address, announcing four days of national mourning.


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