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PSI mourns with Tanzania the MV Nyerere ferry disaster that claimed hundreds of lives

25 September 2018
PSI learns with chilling accounts, the rising numbers of the toll of death of persons returning from a busy market day on 20 September, when their overloaded ferry, MV Nyerere, capsized on Lake Victoria, killing most of its passengers.

With at least 200 people reported dead at the time of drafting this message, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the people of Tanzania, but more especially to the families that have lost loved ones through this avoidable tragedy. We pray that in these challenging times as a nation and a people, you will find collective strength from this disaster and forge ahead towards building a stronger country with working structures, for all.

To the some 40 persons reported to have survived, we imagine the various levels of trauma and shock you are going through but we are hopeful that those handling these cases will do their best to help you overcome this trauma and help you get back to your daily lives.

We are receiving good news also that the captain of the ferry has been arrested, following President John Magufuli’s order for the arrest of those responsible for the ferry right after the incident happened.

PSI also extends its gratitude to the hardworking rescuers who continue to work around the clock to find survivors and retrieve the bodies of the many persons who are yet to be identified, stuck in the Lake. We call on the government of Tanzania to, as a matter of urgency, make it a priority to address the growing incidences of accidents on the Lake Victoria, with many of them linked to overcrowding of such vessels. This is especially important because it is not the first incident of such gravity that has occurred on the Lake.

The MV Nyerere’s capacity was said to be 100 but state television, citing witnesses, reported that more than 200 people were on-board the ferry. Capsizes are not uncommon on the Lake, with overloading playing major causes of these disasters, as was the case of the 1996 ferry disaster in the same region that claimed the lives of more than 500 people.

Reports also indicate that the captain of the ferry was not on board when this incident happened, leaving the control of the ferry in the hands of someone who had not received proper training for the job. We call for more experienced hands to handle such technical and more sensitive jobs that involve the overall responsibility of people’s lives.  

PSI mourns with you today even as your nation observes four days of national mourning. May this disaster form a great revolution for authorities in charge to take the needed and appropriate steps of averting further accidents like these in the future.

We are also hopeful that the government of Tanzania will begin to take stock of the conditions of such ferries operating in the country and ensure that they are in good working conditions before they embark on any such journeys. 

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