Hoima. More than 30 people are feared dead after their boat capsized on Lake Albert in western Uganda on Sunday.
The engine-powered boat was transporting football players and fans from Fofo Landing Site in Buseruka Sub-county to Runga Landing Site in Kigorobya Sub-county in Hoima District.
The landing sites were supposed to have two separate football matches of men and women.
According to witnesses, the boat, which was loaded with more than 50 people, set off from Fofo Landing Site at about 3pm.
“The boat capsized about 300 metres after taking off from the landing site,” said Mr Sadic Nyangireki, the Nyakabingo Parish youth chairperson.
Mr Nyangireki, who is also a businessman at Fofo Landing Site, said the cause of the accident could have been overloading.
He, however, added that a strong wind started blowing up waters shortly after the boat set off.
“The coxswain attempted to return to the landing site when the winds started blowing but the boat capsized,” he said.
The footballers and fans that set off amid joy, singing and drumming were plunged into panic when the boat was being blown by winds moments before the accident, witnesses said.
Two bodies were retrieved from the lake a few minutes after the accident.
Local leaders have identified the deceased as Majid Mayaya, the coach of the Fofo football team, and a one Winnie, the goal keeper for the female football team of Fofo Landing Site.
Locals who watched their friends and relatives drowning rushed into the lake in an attempt to save their lives.
“We managed to rescue 10 people instantly. When we intensified the search, we rescued 10 others. They have been taken to different health centres for medication. The search efforts are still underway,” said Mr Godfrey Komakech, the Buseruka Sub-county district councillor.
Ms Amia Jane, who survived the accident, said the boat had a hole that was letting in water.
The Albertine regional police spokesperson, Mr Julius Hakiza, said police teamed up with locals in the search for the survivors and retrieving bodies of the deceased.
In December 2016, more than 40 people drowned in Lake Albert on Christmas Day as they travelled to participate in a friendly football match.
Footballers and fans from Kaweibanda Village in Buliisa District were travelling by water to Runga Landing Site in Hoima District for a football match to crown their Christmas Day festivities.