At least 30 people lost their lives after a boat capsized on Lake Albert. Most of the people who died were members of a soccer team from Uganda and fans of the team. The boat was overloaded with people, who were preparing to take part in a highly anticipated soccer match. The tragedy occurred within 300 feet of the shoreline. Rescuers managed to retrieve nine bodies but 21 others remained missing and are presumed to be dead.
Africa’s Lake Albert is located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is Africa’s seventh-largest lakes and one of the African Great Lakes. It is about 100 miles long and 20 miles wide with a maximum depth of 168 feet. It is part of the system of the Nile River with the source of the lake coming from the Lake Victoria and the Semliki River. Named after the British Prince Albert, the lake was discovered in 1864 by explorers Samuel Baker and Sass Flora.
Press TV reported that the victims came from the village of Kawaibenda in the Buliisa district in western Uganda. John Rutagira, police commander, said that the “lake was calm,” with no strong winds. Fifteen other passengers managed to survive the accident by swimming to safety or being rescued by local fisherman and police. Godfrey Opira, the Buliisa District chairperson of soccer referees said that none of the passengers on the boat were wearing life jackets. Rutagira told BBC News that “most of the passengers were drunk by the time they embarked on the boat.” The soccer match was to be held on Christmas Day between the Buliisa District and the Hoima District both in western Uganda.
The Lake Albert accident followed a similar accident on Lake Victoria southeast of Lake Albert several days prior which killed about 20 people. In November, 10 people lost their lives on the western shore of Lake Albert. Boating accidents unfortunately remain common on Lake Albert and throughout Africa with boats packed with too many people or goods and with boats in poor condition due to a lax enforcement of the safety rules. In 2014, about 250 Congolese refugees died on two boats as they tried to cross into Uganda. Most of the 250 people who died were children. Another boating accident in August of 2010 killed 33 people. In most of these accidents, the boats were overcrowded.
By Cheryl Werber
Photo Courtesy Senzo Sithebe/Twitter