At least 79 dead in Lake Victoria ferry disaster - Tanzania state media

The MV Nyerere ferries people between the

Back in 2012, at least 145 people died after a ferry sank while carrying passengers from the island of Zanzibar back to the mainland and 1996, an estimated 800 people drowned after the MV Bukoba sank in Lake Victoria.

Tanzania's Electrical, Mechanical and Services Agency, which is responsible for ferry services, said it was unknown how many passengers were aboard the MV Nyerere.

The toll is likely to rise further as search and rescue operations continue after Thursday afternoon's disaster, John Mongella, commissioner for the Mwanza region, told The Associated Press.

Accidents like these are not uncommon on Lake Victoria and overloading is often to blame.

- The ill-fated vessel was travelling from Bugorora Island to Ukara Island near Mwanza, Tanzania's second largest city.

In a televised address, the president said the ferry captain already had been detained after leaving the steering to someone who wasn't properly trained, The Citizen newspaper reported.

President John Magafuli has sent his condolences to the victims. The rescuers were also retrieving bodies from the water.

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Officials could not confirm the precise number of people on board at the time, but it is believed as many as 300 were on board the boat when it sank, three times its capacity.

Spokeswoman Theresia Mwami said it had not been established exactly how many people were on board.

Local media, however, reported that six people had died.

Tanzania has been hit by several major ferry disasters over the years.

In a speech broadcast on TBC One public television, Magufuli said, "It appears clear that the ferry was overloaded", adding that "negligence has cost us so many lives... children, mothers, students, old people".

Tanzanian ferries often carry hundreds of passengers and are overcrowded, and shifts in weight as people move to disembark can become deadly.

Around 20 people were killed in December 2016 when their boat overturned in Lake Victoria as it was carrying passengers to Uganda's mainland for Christmas holidays.

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