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26 years after MV Bukoba disaster:  Victims still recall the ordeal

26 years after MV Bukoba disaster: Victims still recall the ordeal

ON May 21, 1996 Mr Zacharia Rutakurembelwa (63) a resident of Bukoba Rural district’s Rubafu village was among the passengers on the Mv Bukoba and left Bukoba Port heading for Dar es Salaam on a business trip.

The Mv Bukoba was on a routine journey from Bukoba via Kemondo to Mwanza. It capsized and sank some eight kilometres from Mwanza city, killing an estimated 1,000 passengers.

“I was awakened by a terrified co-passenger at around 6 a.m. who told me that something was amiss as the steamer had lost stability. I quickly pulled a life-jacket and put it on my body. Instantly, I heard a big bang and was thereupon thrown about five meters deep into the Lake.

I guess I lost consciousness for three to five minutes. When I regained I was floating into the water and the ship had already capsized and everything was in total confusion,” he recounts with tears rolling down his cheeks.

The accident happened at around 6.30 a.m. and he was rescued at 11 a.m. Bodies had started floating. It was a grisly `incident.

Mr Rutakurembelwa said it would be appropriate if the government marked May 21 a national public holiday to enable fellow Tanzanians to commemorate the event. Government should also construct a historical monument at the Regional Commissioner’s Offices with names of people who died in the mishap and those who survived the accident.

“Since 1996 I have stopped traveling by steamer. Every time I avoid the water and instead travel by road”, he said.

Several families lost their dear ones including the family of Lutanjuka from Rukulungo village, in Missenyi district who lost 23 people who were going back to Dare s Salaam after attending a funeral at Rukulungo village. Mr Salum Mawingu (68), a former Balimi FC striker, lost 18 relatives who died in the Mv Bukoba disaster.

The relatives were coming from Kamachumu town, in Muleba district where they had just attended a marriage send-off and were heading to Dar es Salaam.

Some of them were going back to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. During the ordeal, 332 bodies were recovered and taken by their relatives for burial, 391 bodies were buried by the government at Igoma area in Mwanza City while 114 people survived the accident.

The MV Victoria Hapa Kazi Tu launched its official routes after a year of renovation. For almost six years people have been waiting for the occasion. The revival of this vessel means a lot to the public.

This is a golden opportunity for people to speed their development. People in Lake Zone regions should get ready to improve their economy through increased production of both cash and food crops. This is a great opportunity which should not be missed. Mr Joas Kabakama (53) and Ms Hadija Kokwijukya (32), both Bukoba Municipal residents could not hide their joy…..”this is a historic landmark.

Since the sinking of the MV Bukoba steamer in 1996, Kagera residents have been facing hardship to travel by road to Mwanza City and other areas. Traders who depended on the ship to carry goods including raw bananas from Bukoba to Mwanza South Port are the most hit, as transport costs by road increased two fold.

Social and economic activities in the East African region are set for a big boost, thanks to construction of the new huge passenger ship on Lake Victoria,” Ms Kokwijukya said.

The old Mv Victoria was grounded in 2014. It has been completely rehabilitated with new engines. Initial fares had been fixed as follows…. 45,000/- for first class, 30,000/- for business class and 16,000/- for economy class.

Children aged between 1-3 years are exempted from paying fares, while those aged between 3-12 years will pay half the normal rate The revival of the water transport from Kagera region to Mwanza means a lot to the economy of the Lake Zone, whose other several activities hinge on the transport.

The government is focusing on boosting businesses through water transport, because it is cheap and reliable in comparison to other means of transport. In its repair commissioned to KTMI Company from South Korea, about 22.8bn/- was spent, where in 2018, the government through Marine Services Company Limited (MSCL) injected 152bn/ to revive three vessels and finance the construction of a shipway at Mwanza South Port in Mwanza City.

The project also involved the construction of another new ship in Lake Victoria at 89.7bn/- with a capacity to carry 1,200 passengers, 400 tonnes of cargo, 20 small vehicles and three trucks.

The vessel, which will be the largest in Great Lakes region, measures 92.6 metres in length, 17 metres width and 11.2 metres height. The construction of the 3,500-tonne vessel is being undertaken by Gas Entec and Kangnam Corporation, all from South Korea and SUMA JKT. Upon its completion, the ship will operate at a minimum speed of 14 nautical miles per hour and a maximum of 16 knots.

The ship will ply between Mwanza-Bukoba, Mwanza Musoma and Mwanza to some Ports in Kenya and Uganda. The ship’s length would be 92 .6 meters while the width would be 17 meters and its speed would be 16 knots per hour.

The ship would be plying between Mwanza North Port to Bukoba for 7 - 8 hours with capacity to carry 1,200 passengers, 400 tons of cargo, 20 cars, three trucks with 36 ship operators.

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Author: MEDDY MULISA

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