By Nuzulack Dausen
DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – At least 42 people drowned when a ferry sank on Thursday in Tanzania’s Lake Victoria and government officials feared the final death toll could be more than 200, a senior local official said.
Ukerewe District Commissioner Colonel Lucas Magembe told Reuters that the rescue mission to find survivors from the disaster had been halted until dawn on Friday with 42 people confirmed dead.
Initial estimates showed that the MV Nyerere was carrying more than 300 people onboard. It went down in the afternoon just a few metres from the dock in Ukerewe district, according to national ferry services operator TEMESA said.
But it was hard to establish the precise number of passengers on board since the person dispensing tickets had also drowned with the machine recording the data lost.
TEMESA spokeswoman Theresia Mwami said the operator had carried out maintenance on the ferry in recent months, overhauling two engines.
In 1996, a ferry disaster on Lake Victoria in the same region killed at least 500 people.
In 2012, at least 145 people died in a ferry disaster in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean, on a vessel that was overcrowded.
(Reporting by Nuzulack Dausen; Additional reporting by George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Richard Balmforth)