The death toll from a capsized Tanzania ferry in Lake Victoria rose to more than 200 Saturday, with scores of victims identified by grieving relatives, as rescuers found one lucky survivor from the disaster.
Divers continued their grim search in the waters around the upturned hull watched by anxious crowds gathered just metres away on the shore of Ukara Island, where the ferry had been due to dock when it lurched over and sank on Thursday.
“We regret that at the moment there are 209 dead in total, 172 of whom have already been identified by relatives,” said Transport Minister Isack Kamwelwe during a press conference broadcast by the public television TBC 1.
Although hopes were fading of finding any more survivors by day three of the search effort, workers rescued an engineer who had managed to locate a pocket of air in the vessel.
Joseph Mkundi, a lawmaker for the Ukerewe district, told AFP the engineer had shut himself into a “special room”.
Mwanza regional governor John Mongella said search teams were awaiting the arrival of a “device” to turn the wreck over to speed up the search.
State television cited witnesses reporting that more than 200 people had boarded the ferry at Bugolora, a town on the larger Ukerewe Island. It was market day, which usually sees the vessel packed with people and goods.
Witnesses told AFP the ferry sank when passengers rushed to one side to disembark as it approached the dock. Others blamed the captain, saying he had made a brusque manoeuvre.