The boat was carrying passengers when it “hit a strong wind” and “went underwater,” a local official said.
At least 26 people died when their boat sank on Lake Albert, which marks the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ugandan officials told AFP news agency.
The boat was carrying passengers between two Ugandan sites in the northeast of the lake on Wednesday when it “hit a strong wind” and “went underwater,” local official Ashraf Oromo said on Friday.
“The boat had more than 50 people on board, 26 bodies were found, 21 people were rescued,” Oromo said. “A search is ongoing and no further survivors are expected.”
Local authorities in the DRC said at least 33 people had died.
Eight people survived the incident near the town of Kolokoto in Mahagi territory, in Ituri province in DRC, a provincial government spokesperson told Anadolu news agency.
A regional police maritime officer, Samuel Onyango, confirmed the accident.
“Due to non-compliance with safety measures and rapidly changing weather conditions, Lake Albert has many accidents,” Onyango said.
Lake Albert, Africa’s seventh largest lake, is sandwiched between Uganda and DRC. Many of the two countries, including traders, use the lake to transport goods.
Ituri province spokesperson Jean-Marie Nyolo accused state services of issuing illegal travel documents to boat operators.
The borders between Uganda and the DRC have been closed for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The victims are traders who wanted to return to their country with goods from Uganda. We quickly investigated and realized that our services, especially the Migration Department, could have illegally issued documents to allow this boat to cross, ”Nyolo said.
Boat accidents often result in heavy casualties, many of which occur in remote places that go unreported.
Eighteen people drowned when two boats capsized in separate incidents in northeastern DRC in April.
Most accidents are mainly due to overloading, non-compliance with navigation standards and poor condition of vessels.