Hundreds Dead and Missing in Lake Victoria Ferry Disaster as Frantic Search for Survivors Continues

Hundreds of ferry passengers were missing and more than a hundred were reported dead after the vessel capsized in Africa's largest lake, Reuters reported.

The accident occurred on Thursday, when the MV Nyerere, which was reportedly carrying between 400 and 500 passengers across Lake Victoria, sank en route between the islands of Bugorara and Ukala.

Al Jazeera reported that witnesses said the vessel, which was purportedly designed to carry 100 people, had been overcrowded. Bad weather compounded the overcrowding problem.

Lake Victoria sits between three countries: Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. Tanzanian rescuers responded because the accident took place near the northern part of the country. Operations were halted because of poor visibility and resumed on Friday morning.

The exact number of passengers on board is not known, which has complicated the rescue. Reuters reported that the ticket operator was among the dead, with the ticketing machine lost.

"We pray to God to give us hope in such an accident," Regional Commissioner Adam Malima told local reporters after news of the accident broke, according to the BBC. "We pray to God to give us hope that there has not been a high death toll."

A similar incident took place in 1996, when a ferry sank in Lake Victoria near the same area as the MV Nyerere, resulting in the death of more than 500 people.

In 2011, overcrowding cost the lives of close to 200 people in another disaster off Tanzania's coast, when the MV Spice Islander I vessel, fit to carry only about 600 people, sailed from nearby Zanzibar into the Indian Ocean with more than 1,000 passengers on board.

The following year, a vessel sailing to Zanzibar capsized in the Indian Ocean, leaving 145 people dead.