2014 Lake Albert boat disaster

On March 22, 2014, a boat traveling on Africa's Lake Albert capsized. According to local police, 45 survivors were rescued.[1] Officially, 251 people died in the accident.[2]

2014 Lake Albert boat disaster
Map of the Bundibugyo District — in western Uganda.
DateMarch 22, 2014 (2014-03-22)
LocationLake Albert, Uganda near the Democratic Republic of the Congo border
Coordinates1.666861°N 30.927653°E / 1.666861; 30.927653
TypeBoat capsizing
Non-fatal injuries45


Early on March 22, 2014, two boats carrying people from the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement refugee settlement left the Ugandan shore of Lake Albert en route to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).[3] On the way, one of the boats capsized. Its passengers had been returning home after United Nations and Congolese forces won major victories over the Allied Democratic Forces and M23 rebel groups in recent months.[4][3] There was no evidence that the boat's passengers had left Uganda due to conditions at the refugee camp.[5]

Reports indicated that the accident occurred due to overcrowding, a common cause of boating casualties in the region due to lax enforcement of safety rules.[1] The boat's listed capacity was 80, but approximately 300 people were on board at the time of the accident.[2] The lack of life vests and inability of most passengers to swim also contributed to the high death toll.[3] Additionally, the boat was in poor condition mechanically.[5]

Death toll and response

Initial efforts led to the rescue of 45 survivors and recovery of 19 bodies on March 22. Survivors were taken to the Bundibugyo District of Uganda, where they received care from the Ugandan government and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.[3] By March 24, 109 bodies were recovered.[4] Of those, 88 were accepted for burial in DRC. The remainder were rejected due to cultural concerns over burying people more than 72 hours after death, and were buried at the Bundibugyo hospital cemetery.[5] On March 27, the official death toll was revised to 251.[2] Most of the dead were children.[6]

The boat's skipper recalled counting 96 adults on board, but he did not count the children.[6] Police said they believed nearly all passengers had been accounted for.[7]

In a statement, the United Nations said it was "shocked and saddened" by the tragedy.[3] Three days of national mourning were declared in DRC. The government also helped arrange funerals and offered support for the dead.[2] On April 7, DRC announced plans to repatriate about 21,000 refugees living in Uganda. DRC envoy to Uganda Jean Okoto Lolakombe remarked "It is sad that we lost our people, but we have learnt a lesson from the incident."[8] There are 175,000 registered Congolese refugees living in Uganda as of March 2014.[3]


  1. "Uganda: 19 Die in Lake Albert Boat Accident". ABC News. AP. March 22, 2014. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  2. "Uganda Lake Albert boat disaster 'killed 251 refugees'". BBC. March 27, 2014. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  3. "Shipwreck on Africa's Lake Albert claims 98 lives". Sydney Morning Herald. AFP. March 25, 2014. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  4. "Death toll in western Ugandan boat accident rises to 108 people". Xinhua. March 25, 2014. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  5. Pascal Kwesiga (April 6, 2014). "Congolese hold prayers for boat accident victims". New Vision. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
  6. Philippa Croome (March 24, 2014). "More than 100 Congolese refugees killed in boat accident, Uganda says". CNN. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  7. Elias Biryabarema (March 24, 2014). "Boat accident death toll in western Uganda rises to 107". Reuters. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  8. Godfrey Olukya (April 7, 2014). "DRC to repatriate nationals from Uganda". The Africa Report. Retrieved April 16, 2014.
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