At least 151 people have died after a ferry carrying hundreds of people overturned in Lake Victoria, Tanzania. The Tanzania ferry disaster occurred near Ukara island. MV Nyerere was on its way from Bugorora. Rescue operations are being carried out in full force. However, authorities fear that at least two hundred people may have died. Rescue workers include police officials and the army.

The Tanzania ferry disaster happened on Thursday. Many residents of the Mwanza region of Tanzania are waiting anxiously to get some news about their relatives who were travelling on MV Nyerere. Only about 40 people are said to have been rescued so far. Several others are mourning the loss of their loved ones.

“I received a call telling me that I have lost my aunt, father and my younger brother,” says Editha Josephat Magesa, a local resident.

President John Magufuli has ordered arrests for all those people who were responsible for the accident. Police have arrested the captain of the ferry. President Magufuli, in his television address, announced he had information that the arrested captain was not on board the ferry, when the mishap occurred. The ship was in control of someone who was not trained enough for the job. He has also announced four days of national mourning.

A map showing the location of Tanzania ferry disaster

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What caused the Tanzania ferry disaster?

President Magufuli has ordered a thorough investigation of the case to find out what exactly caused this deadly accident in Africa’s largest lake. The official investigation will start only once the rescue operations are completed. However, initial reports suggest that the ferry was overloaded. While the total capacity of the ship is 100, it was carrying more that 400 passengers on Thursday. It was also carrying cargo including bags of cement and maize.

Since the ship capsized 50 metres away from the shore, it is likely that many people may not have been able to swim. The boat was probably overloaded as it was a busy time owing to the market day in Bugorora. Many of the victims were on their way home from the market when the ferry overturned.

Tanzania’s opposition accused the government of negligence. “We have often raised concerns about the poor condition of this ferry, but the government turned a deaf ear. We have repeatedly denounced this negligence,” said John Mnyika, deputy secretary general of the main opposition party Chadema.

However, other sources claim that the ferry’s engines were recently replaced.

Such accidents are not uncommon in Lake Victoria. “Since my birth, people have gone to their deaths on this lake, but what are we to do? We did not choose to be born here, we have nowhere to go,” says Sebastian John, a school teacher.

In 1996, a similar accident killed more than 500 people.