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Relatives attend the burial service of victims of the MV Nyerere on the shores of Ukara Island, Tanzania Relatives attend the burial service of victims of the MV Nyerere on the shores of Ukara Island, Tanzania  (AFP or licensors)

Tanzanian Bishops thank Pope Francis for consoling them during tragedy

Tanzanian Bishops have thanked Pope Francis for being close to the people of Tanzania as the country started to bury over 200 victims who perished when a ferry, the MV Nyerere, capsized on Lake Victoria.

Vatican News Africa Service – Vatican City.

The Bishop of Mpanda Diocese and Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) President, Gervas John Nyaisonga has thanked Pope Francis for his message of condolence at a period when the country is mourning. Bishop Nyaisonga said, as a Conference, they have owned the Pope’s message and were also echoing their own sadness at the loss of so many lives on Lake Victoria last Thursday.

More thank 227 persons confirmed dead

Over the weekend, the confirmed death toll from the MV Nyerere disaster stood at 227. Grief stricken relatives wept on Sunday at the mass burials in Tanzania. Friends and relatives placed wreaths on coffins lined-up for burial on Ukara Island.

41 persons are known to have survived the tragedy but many in Tanzania believe that more bodies are still under the water and some may never be found. The figure of those who perished indicates a number far above the official capacity of the ill-fated MV Nyerere. The total number of deaths may never be known because no one is sure how many people were on the overcrowded ferry which had a capacity of 101.

The boat capsized, on Lake Victoria, just 50 metres off the Island of Ukara.

Bishops grateful to security forces and volunteers

Speaking on behalf of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), Bishop Nyaisonga’s message relayed through TEC’s Secretary General, Fr. Charles Kitima said the Bishops of Tanzania join the Holy Father Pope Francis in expressing their heartfelt condolences over the death of so many people. The Bishops have also expressed their appreciation to all persons involved in rescue efforts as well as in the search for bodies.

“In particular, we thank the fishermen, military, navy, police, scouts and all people who continue to help in rescue efforts. Accept our profound appreciation and gratitude,” Bishop Nyaisonga said.

Tanzanian authorities have now said no survivors are likely to be found and have accordingly ended search efforts in order to focus on finding bodies.

Tanzanian President says accident is a disaster

Tanzanian President John Magufuli described the MV Nyerere tragedy as a “great disaster for the nation.” He has declared four days of national mourning and ordered the arrests of officials managing the ferry for negligence that has cost lives.

The government has since announced a Commission of inquiry to be headed by Retired General, George Waitara. The Commission of Inquiry will seek to establish circumstances that led to the accident and to make recommendations within a month.

24 September 2018, 15:29