At least 26 people died when their boat sank on Lake Albert, which marks the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ugandan officials told AFP news agency.
The boat was carrying passengers between two Ugandan locations in the lake’s northeast on Wednesday when it “hit a strong wind” and “went under water”, local official Ashraf Oromo said on Friday.
“The boat had over 50 people on board, 26 bodies have been recovered, 21 people were rescued,” Oromo said. “A search is ongoing and no more survivors are expected.”
Local authorities in the DRC said at least 33 people died.
Eight people survived the incident that occurred near the locality of Kolokoto in Mahagi territory of DRC’s Ituri province, a spokesman for the provincial government told Anadolu Agency.
A regional police marine officer, Samuel Onyango, confirmed the accident.
“Because of failure to adhere to safety measures and fast changing weather patterns, Lake Albert has many accidents,” Onyango said.
Lake Albert, Africa’s seventh-largest lake, is sandwiched between Uganda and the DRC. Many from both countries, including traders, use the lake to transport goods.
Ituri province’s spokesman Jean-Marie Nyolo blamed the state services for issuing illegal travel documents to the boat operators.
The borders between Uganda and the DRC have been closed for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The victims are traders who wanted to return to their country with goods from Uganda. We quickly carried out investigations and realised that our services, especially the migration department, might have issued documents illegally to allow this boat to cross,” Nyolo said.
Boat accidents often result in heavy casualties, with many happening in remote places not even reported.
Eighteen people drowned when two boats capsized in separate incidents in northeastern DRC in April.
Most of the accidents occur mainly due to overloading, non-compliance with navigation standards, and poor condition of vessels.