(SKY NEWS) — More than 200 people are feared to have died after a ferry sunk in Tanzania’s Lake Victoria, a senior local official said.
At least 44 people have been confirmed dead, Ukerewe District Commission Colonel Lucas Magembe said.
And 37 others have been rescued, John Mongella, Mwanza’s commissioner said.
The rescue mission has been halted until dawn on Friday.
Another official said the vessel was only meant for 100 people but was overloaded and had more than 400 people on board.
However, it was difficult to establish just how many passengers there were as the person dispensing tickets drowned with the machine recording the data.
The MV Nyerere ferry capsized just metres from the dock on the island of Ukerewe, between the islands of Ukora and Bugolora, on Thursday afternoon.
The Tanzania electrical, mechanical and electronics services agency, which is in charge of servicing the vessels, said the ferry was involved in an accident, but gave no further details.
Spokeswoman Theresia Mwami denied there had been any mechanical problems as the company had carried out heavy maintenance on the ferry in recent months, including two new engines.
Accidents are often reported on the large freshwater lake surrounded by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
Some of the deadliest have been in Tanzania, where passenger boats are often old and in poor condition.
In 1996, more than 800 people died after the MV Bukoba ferry sank on the lake.
And in 2011, nearly 200 people died when the MV Spice Islander I sank off Tanzania’s Indian Ocean coast near Zanzibar.