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Death toll from boat capsizing in Tanzania reaches 136, expected to climb

A screenshot taken from a video provided by Tanzanias StarTV channel reportedly shows people searching for victims on Friday after the ferry MV Nyerere capsized in Lake Victoria, Tanzania. At least 136 people are known to have died, Tanzanian state media said, citing the country's police chief. (AFP/Getty Images)

At least 136 people have been declared dead after a boat capsized in Tanzania. That number is expected to rise.

How many people were on the boat?

The MV Nyerere ferry was built to hold 100 people. More than 300 were reportedly on board the ferry on Thursday in what should have been a routine trip between two islands (Ukara and Ukerewe) on Lake Victoria. The ferry reportedly made that same trip eight times a day.

Thursday was market day in Bugorora on Ukerewe, potentially contributing to the increased number of people trying to use the ferry. In addition to passengers, the boat was also reportedly transporting cement and maize.

At around 2 p.m. local time, as the boat neared its destination on Ukara, passengers reportedly grouped on one side of the boat in an effort to disembark more quickly once they docked. The boat had only between 100 and 200 meters left to travel when disaster struck.

According to John Mengella, the commissioner for the local Mwanza region, “the balance of the boat was overwhelmed and it started to capsize.”

Many people on the boat are assumed to have been unable to swim. Others were trapped underneath it when it overturned.

A witness said that nearby fishing boats had hurried to the site in an effort to save as many people as possible. Police and army divers would later become involved as well. At least 40 people have been rescued so far, 32 of whom are in critical condition. Local officials cited by Reuters fear that the number of deaths could pass 200.

"I received a call telling me that I have lost my aunt, father and my younger brother," local resident Editha Josephat Magesa told the BBC.

What else?

It is unclear just how many people were on the boat because the person who sold tickets for the crossing died in the accident, and the machine that recorded the transactions was destroyed.

Once the rescue operations end, an investigation will start.

In 1996, a ferry accident on the same lake killed 500 people.

One last thing…
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