Six more bodies of passengers who drowned in Lake Tanganyika after two boats collided in Uvinza District early on Friday were recovered yesterday. The recovery took to 19 the number of people confirmed dead in the accident, according to the Principal Officer of the Surface and Marine Transport and Regulatory Authority (Sumatra) in Kigoma Region, Mr Amaniel Sekulu. The boats – MV Atakalo Mola, which was carrying 65 passengers, and MV Pasaka, which had 137 passengers on board – collided, with MV Pasaka capsizing at around 3am on Friday. Many of the passengers on board MV Pasaka were worshipers from the Pentecostal Church of God (PCG), who were heading to join neighbouring church congregations for Christmas celebrations. Authorities said 22 passengers were feared to have drowned after the accident. Mr Sekulu said a recovery operation was still going on.
“There are passengers who are still missing, and that is why the recovery operation is still going on. If nobody else is found alive, then we at least have to find the bodies of the missing passengers,” he said.
The operation involved divers from the Police Marine Unit, Tanzania People’s Defence Force and local fishing villages. Most of the passengers who drowned in the tragedy were choir members from the PCG church in Kalilani Village. A choir member with the Tanzania Assemblies of God (TAG) in Lubengela Village, Mr Kitendo Abasi, told The Citizen on Friday that 30 PCG members were on the boat when the accident occurred. “Many of the church members boarded the boat on the journey to the villages of Buhingu, Igalula, Mgambazi and Sigunga,” he noted. Mr Abasi added that he had escorted the church members to board the boat. The accident occurred shortly before the boat was about to dock at Lubengela Village to pick up more church members.