Tanzania leader orders arrests as ferry death toll nears 170

Onlookers bore witness to a grim rescue operation on Friday

The death toll from a crowded ferry capsizing in Lake Victoria rose sharply to 207 Saturday, a Tanzanian minister said, as rescue workers found a lucky survivor.

Tanzania's president has ordered four days of national mourning for the victims and as well as the arrest of the boat's operators. The man, an engineer was pulled out alive from the wreck of the ferry and was immediately rushed to hospital. He is reported to be in a serious condition.

State television cited witnesses reporting that more than 200 people had boarded the ferry at Bugolora, a town on the larger Ukerewe Island, where it was market day when locals said the vessel was usually packed with people and goods.

It is learnt that the ferry is carrying almost 400 people.

Magufuli told the nation in an address Friday that the captain left the ferry's steering in the hands of a person not trained for the job, The Citizen newspaper reported.

In 2011, some 200 people were killed after an overloaded vessel - carrying more than 1,000 passengers despite an official capacity of 620 - hit strong winds off the island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean.

Tanzanian police and rescuers transport bodies of passengers retrieved after a ferry MV Nyerere overturned off the shores of Ukara Island in Lake Victoria, Tanzania September 22, 2018.

Almost 200 people died in 2011 when the MV Spice Islander I sank off Tanzania's Indian Ocean coast near Zanzibar.

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A Tanzanian official says the death toll from a capsized ferry on Lake Victoria has risen to 167 while wooden coffins have arrived at the scene. He added that the vessels also lack services for people with disabilities, among the most vulnerable in such incidents.

"He called me and said he was in trouble", Musa told The Citizen. "We need to have rescue teams everywhere so that we can deal with these kinds of tragedies".

Tanzanians mourn as a rescue operation is underway.

On Friday President John Magufuli ordered the arrest of those responsible for the sinking.

It's unclear how many passengers were aboard the ferry. "Because of the congestion we have not been able to do full totaling".

President Magufuli's spokesman said Magufuli was "deeply saddened" by the tragedy and urged citizens to "stay calm during these hard times".

The country's opposition has accused the government of "negligence". "We have repeatedly denounced this negligence", said John Mnyika, deputy secretary general of the main opposition party Chadema.

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