Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Uganda: 108 Bodies Recovered from Lake Albert, Boat Had a Limit to Carry 80 People, Carried 250

According to the BBC, rescue workers in Uganda have so far recovered 107 bodies, including those of 57 children, after a boat that had a capacity of only 80 passengers capsized on Saturday (March 22) on Lake Albert.

The boat reportedly transported up to 250 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) back to their home country when it capsized. 

Boat accidents of all levels represent an endless scandal in Uganda largely because of non-existent maritime regulations and...unbridled greed!

The majority of boats on Lake Albert are overloaded and do not carry life jackets.

COMMENT: Lake Albert, also known as Albert Nyanza and formerly known as Lake Mobutu Sese Seko, is one of Africa's Great Lakes. It is Africa's seventh-largest lake and the world's 27th largest lake by volume. 

Lake Albert is located in the center of the continent, on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire). Lake Albert is about 160 kilometers (100 miles) long and 30 kilometers (19 miles) wide with a maximum depth of 51 meters or 168 feet.

Capsized boats are a frequent occurrence in Uganda, as transport providers take advantage of lax policing to load boats with more passengers than they can safely transport.

Without question, the capsizing of the small ferry will no doubt go down as Uganda's worst lake disasters.

The boat was one of two that left from Hoima district on the eastern side of the lake on Saturday morning, carrying refugees who had been living at Kyangwali refugee settlement but were heading back home to eastern DRC of their own accord. 

Uganda is a major refugee-hosting country with an asylum-seeker and refugee population exceeding 328,900 as of end February 2014.
This would make it arguably Uganda’s worst lake disaster in recent memory.

While no formal travel warnings have been issued for foreign visitors intent to explore the lakes and rivers in Uganda, caution is nevertheless quietly being counseled to those seeking advice, in particular for foreign backpackers wanting to travel by boat in the area.

Considering the appalling condition and non-existence of maritime regulations on Lake Albert, even personal floatation devices (PFDs) cannot be trusted to keep foreigners afloat, which is why I strongly recommend that all foreign travelers carry their own PFD. Yes, it is bulky, but it will keep you afloat!

If you don't believe me, would you feel soft and fuzzy using a PFD that is ten-to-twenty years old?