World News

Survivor Found Inside Tanzania Ferry, Days After Deadly Capsize

Posted September 22, 2018 2:26 p.m. EDT

NAIROBI, Kenya — A day after Tanzanian authorities said they were unlikely to locate any more survivors from a ferry that capsized in Lake Victoria, an engineer who worked aboard the vessel was discovered alive in an apparent air pocket inside the overturned boat, authorities said Saturday.

Divers rescued the engineer from the ferry, the MV Nyerere, on Saturday morning, nearly two full days after the vessel overturned, the country’s minister for communication, transport and infrastructure, Isack Kamwewle, said on the state-run Tanzania Broadcasting Corp.

By Saturday afternoon, authorities said the death toll had climbed to 209 people, according to the Tanzania Broadcasting Corp. The precise number of passengers on board has been difficult to pin down. Although the ferry had an official capacity of only 100 people, it may have been carrying three times that number of passengers when it overturned, according to some estimates.

As the MV Nyerere approached its destination Thursday afternoon, the small island of Ukara on Lake Victoria, many of the passengers inside the main cabin began to move toward the front of the vessel near the exit. It was that sudden shift of weight that appears to have caused the ferry to start to tip, local officials and passengers on board the vessel have said.

“It was only when we were approaching the dock at Ukara that some passengers started rushing out of the cabin,” Petero Marato, a 51-year-old trader who was on board the ferry said in a telephone interview. The MV Nyerere, he said, was immediately overwhelmed.

“It started sinking from one end before capsizing,” Marato said.

The ferry typically has more passengers on Thursday, a large market day on the nearby island of Ukerewe, which is where the MV Nyerere was coming from when it sank near Ukara, its destination. It is about an hourlong journey by ferry between the two islands.

Marato said many of the passengers were trapped inside the cabin as the ferry began to sink. Marato, who was outside, was tossed overboard into the water, and rescued a short time later by fishermen.

“I survived because I was among the few passengers who was not in the cabin at the time the ferry overturned,” he said.

More than 40 people had been rescued from the ferry in the initial aftermath of the disaster.

Of the 209 confirmed dead, whose bodies had been recovered from the wreckage, 172 have been identified, authorities have said.

The engineer who was rescued, Alphonce Charahani, was immediately rushed to a medical facility on Ukara island to receive care. Few details on his health have been released, but authorities described him as being covered in oil when he was found.