Divers have recovered 31 bodies from Lake Victoria after a party boat capsized in one of Uganda’s deadliest maritime disasters.
The toll is expected to rise. The boat was said to be carrying more than 100 people, twice its capacity, when it overturned late Saturday evening.
“Such boats cannot carry more than 50 people,” said lawmaker Johnson Muyanja, who represents part of the district of Mukono, the site of the accident. “Here we don’t have limits. Our problem is that we don’t have control.”
Authorities tried to prevent the MV Templa from leaving on the cruise but the presence of a couple of local princes among the passengers thwarted their efforts.
The boat had been grounded for safety reasons and had recently undergone repairs to fix holes in its hull, authorities said.
One reason many people died close to shore was likely “intoxication,” said Asuman Mugenyi, national director of police operations. Citing the accounts of some survivors, he said there were life jackets that passengers neglected to wear.
The boat’s passengers, in a party mood, likely panicked when the vessel started to sink, he said.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said on Twitter that he had ordered the electronic registration and monitoring of all boats “so that we can know who is where on the lake and why.”
“Obviously, the operators of this boat will be charged with criminal negligence and manslaughter, if they have not already been punished for their mistake by dying in the accident,” he said. But police said the couple that owned and operated the boat had in fact died in the accident.
Boat accidents are common on Lake Victoria, which is surrounded by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
More than 200 people were killed in a Tanzanian ferry disaster in September. It, too, was blamed on overcrowding.