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Boat accident death toll in western Uganda rises to 107

Source: Reuters - Mon, 24 Mar 2014 11:48 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Boat carrying mostly Congolese refugees

* Accidents are common on Uganda's lakes (Adds quotes, details on death toll)

By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA, March 24 (Reuters) - One hundred and seven people have died after a boat capsized in a lake along the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ugandan police said on Monday after recovering more bodies.

The boat carrying mostly Congolese refugees tipped over early on Saturday in Lake Albert. Police say the boat was overloaded, a common factor in similar tragedies in the east African country.

The Albertine Rift region of Uganda is home to thousands of Congolese refugees who have fled strife at home over the years, particularly in Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern region, which has been plagued by violence involving various rebel groups.

Police said that they estimate about 150 people were on the boat and that they expect no more survivors.

"Since the rescue operations began on Saturday we have recovered a total of 107 bodies and we think we have roughly accounted for every one although we can't rule out more bodies being found since our working number of those on board was an estimate," Charles Sebambulidde, the Albertine regional police commander told Reuters by phone.

"At this time our search is for bodies because we don't think any more survivors are still out there."

Lake Albert is about 160 km (100 miles) long and 30 km wide and is the northernmost of a chain of lakes in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the Rift Valley.

The boat began its journey at the northern end of the lake and was heading south to a landing site on the Ugandan shoreline when it ran into trouble at around mid-morning.

Popular with local traders and fishermen, boats - often flimsy and overloaded - criss-cross the lake linking the towns and villages that dot the shoreline.

Accidents are relatively common on Uganda's lakes, which include Lake Victoria and Lake Edward, due to overloading, lack of maintenance and lax enforcement of safety standards. (Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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