By Ismael Kasooha
KIBAALE, UGANDA, March 24 – The coxswain (pilot) of the boat which capsized on Lake Albert killing an unspecified number of Congolese refugees has been arrested by police in Kibaale as the search for more bodies continues.
As many as 60 people are feared dead — with 22 bodies found so far — as another of the bad boat disasters in Uganda’s recorded history occurred early Saturday.
Four years ago, some 70 people were killed in a boat fatality when their boat capsized on the same lake, also on a Saturday.
The coxswain involved in the latest incident, identified only as Ocelle, is currently in police custody at Kitebere. Kibaale district police commander John Ojokuna Elatu, who identified the coxswain, said he will be transferred to the district police headquarters later.
Ojokuna said the coxswain would will be charged with offences of overloading, operating a boat under the influence of alcohol and recklessness “as soon as possible”.
Meanwhile the search and rescue operation for both survivors and bodies is going on, with the police and local fishermen teaming up in the efforts. By Sunday morning the number of people rescued had reached 42 with at least 22 bodies already recovered.
It is believed that more than 40 bodies are still in the water.
Charles Kisembo, the fisheries officer in charge of Ndaiga sub-county declared that finding more people alive was unlikely, and that hope for more survivors was fading. “We do not expect to get survivors, but the search continues,” he said.
The boat capsized near Kitebere landing site in Kibaale district en route to Ntoroko landing site. It was taking some 100 Congolese refugees who were reportedly fleeing from Kyangwali refugee settlement camp in Kyangwali sub-county Hoima district.
The refugees boarded at Senjojo landing site on Saturday morning but the boat later encountered mechanical problems a few hours later at around 10am local time, leading to the boat tipping over.
The bodies of those who died were taken to Ntoroko mortuary aboard a Kibaale district speed boat.
Among the dead were 14 children.
SOURCE: NEW VISION