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Tanzania holds funerals for ferry disaster victims


Tanzania held a “national funeral” on Sunday for the victims of the sinking of the ferry that capsized three days earlier in southern Lake Victoria, killing at least 224 people.

During a ceremony on the island of Ukara, off which the ferry capsized, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said the entire nation was mourning.

Symbolically, about ten coffins were placed in individual graves, including those containing bodies that could not be identified.

Representatives of several religious denominations took turns at the microphone on Sunday for brief prayers and flower wreaths were placed in front of the coffins. The flags, as across the country, were at half-mast, with four days of national mourning decreed on Friday by President John Magufuli.

Preliminary reports have blamed overloading for the disaster.

According to some witnesses and survivors, passengers moved forward as the vessel approached the landing, and this movement caused the vessel to unbalance. According to others, the captain, distracted by his mobile phone, missed the approach manoeuvre and, wishing to make up for it, carried out a sudden manoeuvre that caused the ferry to capsize.

On Friday evening, Tanzanian President John Magufuli revealed that the captain, who was absent, had left an inexperienced subordinate on the job.

The Tanzanian president promised Friday evening that “those responsible will be absolutely punished” and on Sunday, he announced the dissolution of the board of directors of the institution in charge of ferry management, the Tanzanian Electrical Services Agency.

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