Dozens of people have died in Tanzania when a passenger ferry capsized in the south of Lake Victoria, an official said on Thursday.
While it wasn’t confirmed, one official said it is believed more than 200 people were on board.
“According to reports that President John Magufuli has just received from the authorities in Mwanza, the toll now stands at more than 40 dead,” Gerson Msigwa, the president’s spokesman, said on state television.
Tanzania’s Electrical, Mechanical and Services Agency, which operates ferry services, said the boat known as MV Nyerere sank Thursday afternoon near Ukara Island.
“There were more than a hundred passengers on board when the ferry sank. It is feared that a significant number have lost their lives,” said George Nyamaha, the head of Ukerewe district council.
State radio said 26 people had been rescued.
Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from Nairobi in neighbouring Kenya, said the ferry was carrying cargo when it went down.
“What we also know from witnesses that the ferry appeared to be overloaded. It has a capacity of 100 people and sources say it had carried up to 500 people,” she said.
“The ferry was affected by bad weather as well. The rescue operations are ongoing but are hampered because its night time now.”
In 1996, a ferry disaster on Lake Victoria in the same region killed at least 500 people.
In 2012, 145 people died in a ferry disaster in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, in the Indian Ocean, on a vessel that was overcrowded.