Man found alive inside capsized Tanzanian ferry as death toll reaches 209

Man found alive inside capsized Tanzanian ferry as death toll reaches 209
Death toll in Tanzania ferry disaster climbs to 207
NAIROBI, Kenya — The death toll soared past 200 while a survivor was found inside a capsized Tanzania ferry two days after the Lake Victoria disaster, officials said Saturday, while search efforts were ending to focus on identifying bodies.

The survivor, an engineer, was found near the engine of the overturned vessel, Mwanza regional commissioner John Mongella told reporters. The Tanzanian Broadcasting Corporation, which reported the death toll, said he had shut himself into the engine room. His condition was not immediately known.

Colorful coffins arrived, and the work would now focus on identifying bodies, Tanzanias defence chief Venance Mabeyo told reporters at the scene. Families of victims gathered and prepared to claim the dead.

 "The ferry overturned very fast and covered us," survivor Charles Ngarima told Reuters. "I was lucky that I was able to swim under water not knowing where I was swimming to."

"We have found him after three days and now we are transporting his body to Kamasi for burial," said Temeni Katebarira, the brother of one victim.

 "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.

Mass graves were dug, and workers continued to haul the dead from the water. Abandoned shoes were scattered on the shore.

The government's Chief Secretary John Kijazi spoke to reporters after Tanzanian President John Magufuli ordered the arrests of those allegedly responsible for the disaster.

"From morning till now we have retrieved more than 58 bodies. This includes both children and adults," said TropistaTemi, a Red Cross volunteer. "Because of the congestion we have not been able to do full totalling. Later, we will do a full tally."

State-owned Habari Leo reported on its website on Friday that top officials of the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority would be questioned about the accident.

But the total number of deaths might never be known. No one is sure how many people had been on board the badly overloaded ferry, which officials said had a capacity of 101. It capsized in the final stretch before shore on Thursday afternoon as people returning from a busy market day prepared to disembark, while horrified fishermen and others watched.

President John Magufuli has ordered the arrests of those responsible. He said the ferry captain already had been detained after leaving the steering to someone who wasnt properly trained, The Citizen newspaper reported.

"This is a great disaster for our nation," Magufuli told the nation in a televised address late Friday, announcing four days of national mourning.

Thirty-seven people have been rescued from the lake, said Jonathan Shana, the regional police commander for the port of Mwanza on the south coast of the lake. 

Pope Francis, the United Nations secretary-general, Russian President Vladimir Putin and a number of African leaders have expressed shock and sorrow.

Tanzania's state broadcaster says the death toll from a capsized ferry on Lake Victoria has risen to 207, while wooden coffins arrived at the scene.

The MV Nyerere, named for the former president who led the East African nation to independence, was travelling between the islands of Ukara and Ukerewe when it sank, according to the government agency in charge of servicing the vessels.

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Accidents are often reported on the large freshwater lake surrounded by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. Some of the deadliest have occurred in Tanzania, where aging passenger ferries often carry hundreds of passengers and well beyond capacity.

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.

Nearly 200 people died in 2011 when the MV Spice Islander I sank off Tanzanias Indian Ocean coast near Zanzibar.

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

The upturned passenger ferry MV Nyerere floats in the water near Ukara Island in Lake Victoria, Tanzania Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (AP Photo)

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

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Preliminary investigations, showed the ferry had carried more passengers than its capacity permitted, the paper said.

UKARA, Tanzania, Sept 22 (Reuters) – 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.

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 under water 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.