Revellers ignored warning shortly before boat capsized: police

By DAILY MONITOR
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The number of people who died when a boat capsized in Lake Victoria, Uganda, has risen to 31.

Early responders have rescued 26 people while at least 27 remain unaccounted for following the Saturday tragedy involving MV Templar.

Authorities said that the ill-fated boat had been transporting more than 100 revellers when the accident occurred.

Prince David Wasajja and his guests, Minister Aggrey Bagiire and police said, had been travelling to K Palm Beach in Mukono District to attend a night party.

It has emerged police marine officers attempted to block the boat’s departure from KK Beach, at Ggaba Landing Site in Kampala, after being notified of fabrication minutes before.

According to Uganda police and transport ministry officers, Prince Wasajja, Kabaka Ronald Mutebi’s first son, Prince Jjunju Ssuuna Kiweew and others refused to abide by directives.

Zurah Ganyana, the police spokesperson for the Mutima rescue and recovery operation, said their officers told the group that the boat had been grounded for three months and that refurbishments had been rushed but that they nearly turned rowdy.

“They did not listen to our officers and continued with their journey,” Ms Ganyana said on Monday.

Police recounted that shortly after the exchange with revellers, MV Templar capsized about 100 metres from Mutima Country Haven Beach at about 7pm.

The officers had seen fabricators sealing holes in MV Templar that day, while it was in the water, which is contrary to engineering standards. Holes in vessels are sealed on land.

The report contradicts the minister’s narrative on Sunday that the patch-up was done in a secluded place, rendering transport officials unable to trace it.

The marine officers told police commanders that they backed off for fear of causing violent clashes between them and Buganda Kingdom royals.

They said revellers attempted to cause a scene by mobilising people near the beach against police, telling them they wanted to deny Buganda royals the rights of movement and association.

Blocking Buganda royals from travelling to any part of the region has caused tension before.

In September 2009, riots broke out in Buganda after government blocked the Kabaka from presiding over a youth celebration in Kayunga.

Prince Wasajja told BBS TV, a television company owned by the Buganda kindom, that, “Those who died are those who had not worn jackets. If police had not insisted, it would have been worse because everyone would have come without a life jacket.When they (other passengers) saw that the police had blocked … they gave up on going on the boat].”

Mr Freeman Kiyimba, a city businessman and survivor, also told BBS TV that they were in life jackets.

He added that when the waves hit them, they felt part of the impact in their ears and that they took in large amounts of water.

The Daily Monitor could not independently verify this account because Prince Wasajja’s phone was switched off.

Marine officers rescued Prince Wasajja while Prince Kiweew is said to have jumped off the boat and swam to the shores.

A source close to the royal household said the kingdom would issue a statement on the accident on Monday.

Separately, Buganda Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga sent condolence messages to the bereaved and wished the injured quick recovery.

People who travelled with the prince said the boat did not reach the shore for them to get onto it was it was big.

They said they had to use canoes and that shortly after they boarded, there was an imbalance.

The reveller ignored the loss of balance as they were told it was normal at the beginning of journeys.

However, they realised that water was getting into the vessel so they sat side by side to improve the balance.

When they well on their journey, items started falling off the boat and they realised that one part of it had submerged.

They all rushed to the opposite side which also got deeper into the water.

That is when people started falling into the lake to canoe operators were asked to seek help.

Marine units from the Uganda Police Force and the Uganda People’s Defence Forces on Monday started pulling the wreckage out of the lake to establish if there were more bodies in it.

Ferry accidents are not uncommon on the lake and the number of fatalities is often high due to a shortage of life jackets and the fact that many local people cannot swim.

In 1966, more than 800 people lost their lives on Lake Victoria when MV Bukoba sank off the mainland town of Mwanza, according to the Red Cross.

September 2000: Forty-one died as boat headed to Panyimur sank near Kayonga on Lake Albert.

July 2003: Twenty drowned near Runga Landing Site while travelling from Panyimur to Bugoma in Hoima on Lake Albert.

February 2004: Forty-five people perished in a boat accident while returning to Panyimur in Nebbi District on Lake Albert.

December 2004: Twenty-two died when a boat capsizes between Mahagi and Panyimur on Lake Albert.

August 2010: About 70 drowned in Lake Albert.

March 2012: Only two survivors are found after a boat believed to be carrying about 60 people capsizes on Lake Victoria.

December 2012: Twenty-three died when storm hits their boat on Lake Albert.

March 2014: Two hundred fifty one Congolese refugees who had escaped from Kyangwali refugee camp drowned on Lake Albert.

Mid-November 2016: Boat from Kabolwa Landing Site in Buliisa District capsizes, killing eight on Lake Albert.

December 2016: Twenty people died when their boat overturns in Lake Victoria while carrying passengers to Uganda’s mainland for Christmas holidays.

By Kenyan Digest

The Kenyan Digest Team