30 dead in Ugandan boat accident, toll expected to rise

People carry a victim's body onto shore at the rescue site of a capsized cruise boat on Lake Victoria in Mutima village, south of Kampala, Uganda, on November 25, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 November 2018
0

30 dead in Ugandan boat accident, toll expected to rise

  • The boat overturned and sank at about 7 p.m. Saturday night
  • 27 people were rescued overnight, lower than earlier reports. More than 90 passengers were on the boat

MUKONO: Ugandan diving teams are retrieving bodies from Lake Victoria where police say at least 30 people died in a boat accident near the capital, Kampala.
The boat overturned and sank at about 7 p.m. Saturday night, said senior police officer Zurah Ganyana. She said that 27 people were rescued overnight, lower than earlier reports. More than 90 passengers were on the boat, leading officials to believe that the death toll will rise.
Ganyana said the boat was in poor condition and had been grounded for some time. She said it did not have a valid license to operate.
The boat was taking passengers on a pleasure cruise on Lake Victoria, a popular weekend activity for young people in Kampala, when it capsized close to shore.
Early Sunday a police helicopter hovered low over the spot where the boat sank, as a team of divers searched for bodies under calm waters. As the death toll rose, so did the crowd of onlookers at a beach abutting a quiet village outside Kampala.
Police carried victims in tarpaulins and hauled them into a waiting truck, occasionally drawing loud wails from some of the onlookers. One young woman, seeing a victim she apparently recognized, collapsed and was rushed to hospital.
Witnesses who were there on Saturday night said they heard people calling for help as they tried to stay afloat and others tried to swim ashore. Many were women.
“They were shouting ‘Help us! Help us!’ and the boat was sinking very quickly,” said Sam Tukei, one of several local men who used fishermen’s canoes to rescue people. “By the time the police came we had saved many people.”
One reason many people died so close to shore was likely “intoxication,” said Asuman Mugenyi, national director of police operations. Citing the accounts of some survivors, he said there was a good number of life jackets aboard the doomed vessel that passengers neglected to wear.
The boat’s passengers, in a party mood halfway through their journey, likely panicked when the vessel started to sink, he said.
The boat is believed to have been on a routine weekend cruise that is popular among some young Ugandans. Victims include the couple who owned the boat, according to police officer Ganyana.
Boat accidents are increasingly common on East Africa’s major lakes including Lake Victoria, which is surrounded by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
More than 200 people were killed in a Tanzanian ferry disaster in September, with officials saying it had been dangerously overcrowded.


Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

Updated 3 min 6 sec ago
0

Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

  • Attacks happened as Christians attended Easter Sunday services
  • Sri Lankan police chief warned of planned attacks by radical Muslim group on ‘prominent churches’ 10 days before deadly blasts

COLOMBO: At least 156 people, including 35 foreigners, were killed in Sri Lanka on Sunday, when a string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches as worshippers attended Easter services.

A hospital source said Americans, British and Dutch citizens were among those killed in the six blasts, which also injured hundreds of people.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the blasts as “cowardly” and said the government was working to “contain the situation.”

The public has been told to excercise caution in the following days, with emergency numbers being circulated for people who want to seek help.

The country’s police chief made a nationwide alert 10 days before the blasts that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches,” according to the warning seen by AFP.

Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara sent an intelligence warning to top officers on April 11 setting out the threat.

“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” said the alert.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 42 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit.

The first explosions were reported at St. Anthony’s Shrine — a church in Colombo — and St. Sebastian’s Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital. Dozens of people injured in the St. Anthony’s blast flooded into the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, an official told AFP.

“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.

Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in Batticaloa.

An official at one of the hotels, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo, told AFP that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant. He said at least one person had been killed in the blast.

An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.

(Reuters)

“Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account.

He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St. Anthony’s Shrine, and described “horrible scenes.” “I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners.”

“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added. Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.

The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood. Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries. The images could not immediately be verified.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.