By Stephen Kalema
Five days later, and top of the list of unanswered questions is ‘how many people were aboard MV Templar as it set off from KK Beach Ggaba to Mutiima Beach in Mukono?’
There have been conflicting numbers advanced ever since the Saturday night tragedy as the boat capsized and with it, going down with several passengers in Lake Victoria, about 100 metres to Mutiima Beach.
The official numbers making rounds is that there were about 120 people on board.
The narrative has been fuelled by social media, journalists, clueless government and security officials who have since refused to question the authenticity of the said fronted numbers.
For example, on Saturday night, 30 minutes after the boat capsized, police spokesman Patrick Onyango said the ill-fated boat was carrying 80 passengers including Buganda Kingdom prince David Wasajja, Hope Mukasa and businessman Freeman Kiyimba. These are some of the 40 passengers that Onyango said had survived then.
However, reports from survivors say the boat was carrying more than 100 people.
Police rescue unit on Wednesday said they had retrieved 33 dead bodies while 27 people had survived. If you put this in perspective, going by the accounts of the survivors, over 40 people are still missing.
Fishermen on Mutiima Beach who helped with the rescue mission also have another tale to tell. Those Watchdog spoke to say about two coasters and a taxi ferried survivors on Saturday night. This brings the total number of survivors to about 58, 31 more than police records.
Which makes sense since some police officers who have been on ground ever since this incidence occurred, claimed on Saturday, some survivors refused to be included on the official records ‘due to their public statuses and their own reasons’.
Following singer Iryn Namubiru’s tale – she is one of the 27 ‘registered’ survivors – some 15 people jumped off onto other boats before the situation got out of hand.
“There were other boats passing by that realised we had a problem (this I learnt after the incident) and they warned that we were about to capsize. They came closer and asked for those who wanted to leave the boat. Some 15 people left and jumped off the boat minutes before the boat could capsize and left us to us to die,” Namubiru said.
These 15 are not accounted for anywhere.
Fishermen from Ggaba Landing Site, near KK Beach say the number could have been anywhere between 50 and 80. However, later on, there were hordes of girls that came close to departure. These hot on the boat for free (others were allegedly paying Shs70,000). They are said to have been the majority of passengers on the cruise, with reports suggesting they had been paid to entertain the rich male passengers.
The search for more victims continues but without a proper manifest, the country might never know the extent of the deaths or those missing.
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