As the death toll from the Tanzanian ferry accident rises to over 160, the president of the country has ordered the arrests of the vessel’s operators.
President John Magufuli, on Friday, said an order has been issued to arrest "all those involved in the management of the ferry" which sank on Lake Victoria. "It appears clear that the ferry was overloaded," Magufuli remarked in a speech on TBC One public television.
More than a 160 bodies have been retrieved from the famous African lake, according to Tanzanian police official Simon Sirro. President Magufuli said “this is a great disaster for our nation,” before announcing four days of national mourning. The Tanzanian leader added that the accident was a result of "negligence" and that "arrests have already begun" in relation to the tragedy.
The president explained that investigations have revealed the cause of the accident to be overloading and that even the cargo on board exceeded the 25 tons limit.
Authorities say that the number of casualties will rise significantly as search and rescue parties continue to comb the waters surrounding where the MV Nyerere sank Thursday.
“More than 200 people are feared dead,” Tanzania Red Cross spokeswoman Godfrida Jola said. “But no one knows” how many people were on board.
The ferry is suspected to have been carrying some 300 people, prior to going down just a few meters from the dock on Ukerewe, the lake’s biggest island.
Over three dozen people were pulled from the lake alive, a regional police commander for Mwanza port told Reuters.
Officials from around the world have expressed sympathies with Tanzanian people. Pope Francis, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Russian President Vladimir Putin and African leaders expressed shock and sorrow.
“His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his heartfelt solidarity with those who mourn the loss of their loved ones and who fear for the lives of those still missing,” the pontiff said, according to the Vatican.
Tanzania has been hit by several major ferry disasters. At least 500 people were killed when a ferry capsized in Lake Victoria in 1996. And another 145 people died when a ferry sank off the shore of Zanzibar in 2012.