The boat overturned and sank at about 7 p.m. Saturday night, said senior police officer Zurah Ganyana. "It was overloaded and unfortunately people were drunk", he said.
The accident happened at Mpatta sub-county in Mukono district, Uganda. "They might not have heard the emergency commands of the captain, who is still unaccounted for", he added.
Police carried victims in tarpaulins and hauled them into a waiting truck, occasionally drawing loud wails from some of the onlookers. This particular cruise had been marketed as an end of year boat cruise and attracted several middle class passengers, socialites and celebrities including Buganda kingdom prince David Wasajja, artists Iryn Namubiru, The Mith among others.
It is not uncommon for ferries to capsize in the lake and the number of fatalities is often high due to a shortage of life jackets and the fact that many local people can not swim. One rescue boat reportedly got overloaded by the survivors who were by now fighting for the few available life jackets.
Uganda police have said the accident was caused by overloading and that the boat was also poorly maintained.
"They were shouting 'Help us!"
Uganda Police Force wrote on Social media that "The Uganda Police Force Marine Unit rescues over 40 people alive in Lake Victoria".
Dead bodies of passengers are recovered after a cruise boat capsized in Lake Victoria off Mukono district Uganda Nov 25 2018. REUTERS
"Our rescue team is still on the ground trying to rescue whoever we can find".
The boat was owned by a man named Templa Bissase or Bissaso and his wife, according to a statement that President Yoweri K. Museveni issued to the Ugandan Daily Monitor.
He advised the public to take lessons from Saturday's tragedy, regarding safety.
He also noted that the ones in charge of the boat would be charged with criminal negligence and manslaughter.
Boat accidents are increasingly common on East Africa's major lakes including Lake Victoria, which is surrounded by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
In September this year, 200 people were killed in a Tanzanian ferry disaster on Lake Victoria, with officials saying it had been dangerously overcrowded.
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