Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta and Rwanda’s leader Paul Kagame have reached out to their Tanzanian counterpart following the Lake Victoria tragedy.
“I have heard of the tragic accident on Lake Victoria where the MV Nyerere ferry capsized, drowning over 100 people,” Museveni said in a Friday statement.
“On behalf of the people of Uganda and on my own behalf, I wish to express our deep felt condolences to President J. Pombe Magufuli, the people of the Democratic Republic of Tanzania and the EAC upon this sudden loss,” he added.
Uhuru Kenyatta also expressed condolences on behalf of the people of Kenya, saying no words can adequately express his grief following this tragic accident.
“My heart goes out to those who have lost their lives and their families. We, as your neighbour, are deeply heartbroken by what happened.”
He added: “I express our solidarity and support with our brothers and sisters in Tanzania, with whom we’ve been friends and have deep ties, and to assure them that we will lend every needed support.”
Kagame also sent his deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of the Lake Victoria ferry accident.
“Our thoughts are with you. We cannot thank the rescuers enough,” he said.
Pope Francis and a number of African leaders have expressed shock and sorrow.
“His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his heartfelt solidarity with those who mourn the loss of their loved ones and who fear for the lives of those still missing,” his telegram said, according to the Vatican.
Death toll at 136
According to the latest reports, the death toll has risen above 136 people.
Officials say the number is likely to rise further as search and rescue operations continue after the disaster on Thursday afternoon.
At least 37 people were rescued from the sunken ferry as of Thursday evening, when rescue teams called off their mission overnight.
It is not clear how many people were on board, though such ferries often carry hundreds of people and are overcrowded.
The toll was likely to go up, John Mongella, commissioner for the Mwanza region, told The Associated Press after dozens of security forces and volunteers resumed work at daybreak.
“More than 200 people are feared dead,” based on accounts from fishermen and others nearby, because passengers had been returning from a busy market day, Tanzania Red Cross spokeswoman Godfrida Jola told the AP.
The president of Tanzania, John Magufuli, has urged the country to remain calm.
In 1996, more than 800 people died when the passenger and cargo ferry MV Bukoba sank on Lake Victoria.
Nearly 200 people died in 2011 when the MV Spice Islander I sank off Tanzania’s Indian Ocean coast near Zanzibar.