Tanzania was in mourning Sunday as the first dozen bodies were buried from a ferry accident that left at least 224 people dead.
The overcrowded ferry was traveling to a popular open-air market on Thursday when it capsized about 50 meters before reaching the shore. The ferry made a sharp turn and immediately tipped, causing people to be thrown out into the frigid waters of Lake Victoria.
Although the maximum capacity for the ferry was 100 people, it is estimated as many as 300 people could have been abroad the vessel.
Tanzanian Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa arrived at Bwisya Village, Ukara Island, Ukerewe District on Sunday and led the “national funerals” on the island where the MV Nyerere would have docked. Many of the victims have been identified and the remainder of the dead will be buried later or taken away by families who wish for a private funeral.
The older vessel was said to also be carrying cargo when it capsized along with the people. It is not uncommon for ferries to capsize on the lake and fatality numbers are often higher due to a shortage of life jackets and because many local people cannot swim. The last accident on Lake Victoria was in 1996 and killed at least 500 people.
In honor of the victims of the accident, Prime Minister Majaliwa said a memorial will be built on Ukara.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli ordered the arrest of all the operators of the ferry and the captain, who left the ferry to be steered by someone not properly trained, is in custody.
One survivor, whose current condition is unknown, was reported to be covered in oil by the time he was rescued. Another survived by shutting himself in an airtight engine room. More than 40 people have been rescued from the ferry since it capsized.