President John Magufuli of Tanzania has ordered the arrest of a ferry captain who was not aboard when it capsized on Lake Victoria Thursday, killing at least 224 people.
Magufuli, in a televised address, told Tanzanians that the captain of the MV Nyerere left an untrained pilot at the helm of an overcrowded boat that sank before reaching its destination. The ferry was traveling from Bugolora on Ukerewe to Ukora Island with an initial estimate of 200 people aboard, about 40 of them rescued.
The ferry operated by the Tanzanian government’s TEMESA agency was designed for 100 people. It also was overloaded with 25 tons of cargo such as maize, building materials and luggage, the president said.
Tanzania will honor four days of national mourning including Friday, local media reports said.
Magufuli said a commission will conduct an inquiry and warned some politicians against making the tragedy political. The MP for the region, Chadema opposition politician Joseph Mkundi, warned of the potential for disaster because of the ruling government’s failure to invest in transportation infrastructure. The MV Nyerere has been in service since 2004 but recently had engines replaced.
Tanzania lost the MV Skagit in 2012, with about 150 fatalities, and the MV Spice Islander in 2011 with up to 1,500 fatalities although estimates vary. Reports seven years ago underscored Tanzania’s failure to update its passenger fleet while investing in other military or high-tech equipment, with Mkundi now making a similar charge.
Other serious ferry accidents on the continent include some 1,160 people who died on the Al Salam Boccaccio 98 on the Red Sea in 2006, and the 1,800 people aboard the MV Le Joola who died in 2002 off the coast of Senegal.