Lake Victoria, Tanzania ferry capsizes, killing 100

A still image taken from a video showing rescue workers at the scene on Friday after a ferry overturned in Lake Victoria. Reuters

The death toll from the capsizing of a Tanzanian ferry on Lake Victoria had climbed past 80 people and may go significantly higher as rescue efforts intensified, the authorities said on Friday.

Exactly how many passengers were packed on board the ferry, the MV Nyerere, remains unknown, as the authorities fear that the person who that the ticket seller was among those who drowned.

But some estimates put the number of passengers on the boat when it overturned on Thursday at more than 300, according to Reuters.

By midday Friday, 94 bodies had been recovered — 54 women and 40 men — a spokeswoman for the Tanzania Red Cross, Godfrida Jola, said by phone. She said about 40 people had been rescued.

State radio reported that more than 100 people had died. A regional commissioner in Tanzania put the death toll at 86, according to The Associated Press.

Despite the conflicting figures, officials agree that the number is highly likely to rise as more victims are discovered.

The ferry, operated by Tanzania’s Electrical and Mechanical Services Agency, had been travelling between two islands — Ukara and Ukerewe — when it capsized Thursday afternoon, according to local reports. The islands are on the southern, Tanzanian side of the lake, which is shared by Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

The ferry was said to have been particularly jam-packed because it was market day in Bugorora, on Ukerewe island.

The vessel was also carrying cargo, and cement and maize, when it capsized around 50 metres from the shore.

In 1996, a ferry operated by a Tanzanian state-entity, the MV Bukoba, sank after striking a rock, killing hundreds.

On Thursday, many of the passengers on the MV Nyerere were returning from the market. As the ferry approached the shore, many of passengers are believed to have rushed to the front of the boat, to get in position to disembark quickly, said Ms. Jola, of the Tanzania Red Cross. It may have been that sudden shift in weight that caused the boat to capsize, said Ms. Jola, who was not at the scene, but said she was relaying what she had heard from those involved in the rescue effort.

BBC: The vessel was said to be overcrowded
STEPHEN MSENGI: Crowds watch rescue efforts