Boat accident death toll rises

On the fourth day of efforts to retrieve the wreckage of the boat that sunk into Lake Victoria with dozens of revelers on board, one more body has been retrieved, bringing the number of dead to 33, the State Minister for Works Aggrey Bagiire has told this website.

But the numbers could shoot further up with the intensification of efforts to pull out the submerged wreckage of the MV Templar boat that capsized on Saturday evening with an estimated 120 people on board.

This evening, government brought in the MV Kalangala ship to reinforce efforts to pull out the wreckage with the failure of excavators that had earlier been deployed.

But it was during the process using the excavators that the 33rd body was retrieved, according to Bagiire.

A crane was mounted on the MV Kalangala passenger ship to pull out the boat but it too failed.

In Parliament, the Minister of Works and Transport, Monica Azuba Ntege told MPs that the killer boat was a fishing boat that was transformed into a passenger boat.

“The vessel was previously a trawler which was converted into a passenger vessel without requisite approvals by the line ministry and was operating cruise voyages mainly on weekends between various private beaches in Mukono,” Azuba said.

It is understood that Templar Bisase bought the vessel from government but was advised to take it for major repairs.

According to Azuba’s statement to Parliament, the boat’s sail was delayed for nearly four hours after its captain declined to set sail because of its poor condition.

“This delay was caused by the Captain who refused to set sail because he had disagreed with the owner of the ship about its condition which led the owner to engage a skipper to navigate the ship. A police officer intercepted and ordered the vessel not to make its voyage because the officer was suspicious of the vessel’s seaworthiness but the vessel owner and some revellers threatened to throw the officer in the water for interrupting their joy ride. Revellers insisted on sailing in the ‘suspected’ vessel. The vessel therefore took off,” Azuba said.

In a related development, government has declared Friday, November 30 as a day of national mourning for the victims of the accident.

Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda said, the day will not be a public holiday but flags will fly at half mast, and Ugandans will be free to go to places of worship to pray for the dead.