Uganda Footballers, Fans Killed In Boat Capsize

by Bamidele Ogunberu Posted on May 21st, 2019

At least twelve members of a Ugandan football team and their fans died and several more are missing, after a boat they were travelling in capsized on Lake Albert, police said Monday.

The boat was travelling between two fishing villages in the west of the country when it capsized, with police attributing the accident to overloading and bad weather.

“So far we have recovered eight bodies … up to 15 people are missing and a joint Marine unit is on the waters. But we expect no more survivors,” Ugandan area regional spokesman, Julius Allan Hakiza, told reporters.

A local official in Fofo, Baker Ogen, told reporters the toll was higher.

“Those who have died in this tragedy are 30 and all from my area,” said Ogen.

“The boat was loaded with our players and supporters. It had over 60 people but 32 of those survived,” he said, adding that the dead included five players and the team coach.

“It is a tragedy for us and a big loss,” he added.

In December 2016, at least 30 Ugandan members of a village football team and their fans drowned when their boat capsized on Lake Albert during a party.

In 2014 at least 251 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo drowned on the lake while returning home from Uganda.

Such accidents are common in Africa’s Great Lakes region, where boats are often the only form of transportation, are over-crowded and poorly maintained, and few people know how to swim.

Almost 140 people died last month on Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Last year in Tanzania 228 people drowned when a ferry sank just metres from the shore on Lake Victoria.

Why are there so many deaths when boats capsize?

Police and eyewitnesses say the boat was overloaded and then hit by strong winds.

Survivors say most people on the boat were not wearing lifejackets.

In 2016, another boat carrying footballers and fans capsized on Lake Albert, killing more than 20 people.

In 2014, two boats carrying refugees being repatriated to DR Congo capsized and 109 bodies were recovered in Lake Albert.

Boat owners usually have some lifejackets onboard to avoid getting arrested by the marine police but the lifejackets are often old and there are not enough for all the passengers, our reporter says.

She adds that not many Ugandans, except those who live near water, know how to swim, which could be one reason for the high number of fatalities in boat accidents in the country.

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