All managers of ill-fated MV Nyerere under arrest

24Sep 2018
Henry Mwangonde
DAR ES SALAAM
The Guardian
All managers of ill-fated MV Nyerere under arrest

ALL officials responsible for overseeing the operations of the ill-fated MV Nyerere have been arrested for questioning in connection with the tragedy, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa announced yesterday.

Burial of nine of the 200-plus people killed in the MV Nyerere tragedy in progress on Ukara Island in Ukerewe District, Mwanza Region, yesterday. Photo: Correspondent Rose Jacob

This follows an order by President John Magufuli that the ferry’s managers and all those others associated with the tragedy be arrested over culpable negligence.

The ferry capsized in Lake Victoria waters late last week near Ukara Island in Ukerewe District, apparently owing to overloading, with the death toll standing at 224 by yesterday. Those whose bodies had been retrieved by yesterday were 125 women, 71 men, 17 girls and ten boys.

The PM made the announcement during the burial of nine of those killed in Thursday afternoon’s mishap and either not identified or with a green light to relatives.

This comes as the nation awaits the names of the people to constitute the commission of inquiry formed by President John Magufuli to get to the root of the disaster.

“Preliminary investigations show that the ferry keeled over because it carried a much bigger load than it could afford... Its capacity was 101 people but we are told that it left Bugorora (for Ukara) with more than 260 people on board,” the PM told mourners at the burial site.

The PM, who led government officials in paying their last respects to those buried yesterday said the government would do its most to forestall the recurrence of such tragic incidents, adding that a new ferry would take over from MV Nyerere soon on temporary basis.

He further announced that the government would put up a memorial tower bearing the names of all the victims of tragedy.

Works, Transport and Communications minister Isack Kamwelwe earlier said MV Nyerere was built in 2004, renovated five years ago and renovated again in July this year.

Mwanza Regional Commissioner John Mongella meanwhile said his office received initial reports on the tragedy at around 2 p. m. on Thursday last week and he made it to the scene some three hours later.

“By the time we reached there, residents of the area had rescued 40 people, and we managed to rescue one more person,” he said.

It remains unclear precisely how many passengers were on board the ferry on Thursday, though unsubstantiated reports had earlier put the figure at a conservative 101.

MV Nyerere engineer Alphonce Charahani was on Saturday found alive close to the ferry’s engine, a whole 48 hours after tragedy struck. Apparently, he had safely shut himself in the engine room until the rescue team located him.

Navy divers resumed the search operation inside the sunken ferry early on Friday after hearing sounds that suggested signs of life, though only Charahani was found alive. The engineer was pulled out and taken to hospital.

It had earlier been estimated that the ferry may have had as many as upwards of 300 people on board when it capsized only metres before docking on Ukara Island, though the precise number given yesterday was 265 yesterday.

Members of the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces started pulling the capsized ferry to the mainland yesterday, with members of the public from Ukerewe, Mwanza, nearby districts and various other parts of the country having identified 217 of the bodies retrieved from the ferry.

The 70,000 sq km Lake Victoria is shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. At least 800 people were confirmed dead in May 1996 after their ferry – MV Bukoba – capsized just before docking in Mwanza.

Some 20 people on their way to Uganda for Christmas holidays died in December 2016 when a boat overturned on the lake, while in March 2012 only two survivors were found after a boat carrying about 60 people capsized in the Ugandan segment of the expansive lake.