Capsized Tanzanian ferry MV Nyerere death toll shoots to 207, untrained captain arrested

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Divers on Saturday rescued a man from the wreck of an overcrowded Tanzanian ferry that capsized on Lake Victoria on Thursday, killing at least 207 people.

Bodies continued to float to the surface around the vessel, which initial estimates suggested was carrying more than 300 people. State broadcaster TBC said the death toll had reached 207.

Four navy divers resumed their search inside the sunken MV Nyerere early on Saturday after hearing sounds that suggested signs of life.

They pulled one man out of the overturned ship and he was rushed to hospital, a Reuters witness said. His condition was not immediately known.

Late Friday, the toll had stood at 131, with 40 people known to have survived after the MV Nyerere capsized close to the pier on Ukara Island on Thursday.

The vessel may have been carrying as many as 300 passengers – more than three times the ferry’s capacity – according to reports on state media.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Friday ordered the arrest of the management of the ferry, including the captain.

Witnesses reached by AFP said the ferry sank when passengers rushed to one side to disembark as it approached the dock.

In a speech broadcast on TBC 1 public television, Magufuli said “it appears clear that the ferry was overloaded”, adding that “negligence has cost us so many lives… children, mothers, students, old people”.

“I ordered the arrest of all those involved in the management of the ferry. The arrests have already begun,” he added.

It has emerged that the captain of MV Nyerere ferry wasn’t in it when it capsized in Lake Victoria on Thursday, killing over 200 people.

Addressing the nation on Friday evening, President John Magufuli said he has information that the captain left the duty of steering the ferry to a person who was not formally trained for the job.

“The captain is already police custody. I have also ordered that all those responsible for the operations of the MV Nyerere vessel be arrested for questioning,” President Magufuli said in a televised address from the Dar es Salaam State House.

The president declared four days of national mourning and said the government would cover the funeral expenses of the victims.

Hopes are fading that more survivors might still be found.

Dozens of relatives stood crying by the shoreline as they waited for information on their loved ones. Coffins were lined up nearby awaiting bodies being pulled from the vessel, which lay belly up in the water just meters from the shoreline.

“The ferry overturned very fast and covered us,” survivor Charles Ngarima told Reuters. “I was lucky that I was able to swim underwater not knowing where I was swimming to…while trying to swim to safety, I found a number of metal bars that cut my face and the back of my head.”

Another survivor, Jennifer Idhoze, blamed the ferry had capsized because it was overloaded. “I was able to jump out of the ferry… That is how I survived,” she said.

Works, Transport and Communication Minister Isack Kamwelwe said the government was sending special equipment to aid the rescue effort.

“This equipment will increase efficiency in the rescue operation and we will continue with the search until we are satisfied that we have rescued everyone,” he told Reuters.

The ferry sank on Thursday evening just a few meters from the dock on Ukerewe, the lake’s biggest island.


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