efe-epaKampala

At least eight people have died and many more were injured or are missing after a boat carrying soccer players and fans capsized in Western Uganda, authorities said Monday.

The boat had been transporting its passengers on Lake Albert, on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, when it ran into trouble on Sunday, regional police chief Denis Obura said.

"So far, we have recovered eight bodies from the lake, but residents fear that the death toll will be higher," Obura added.

He said five bodies were recovered Monday, with the other three retrieved the previous day.

More than 50 occupants were traveling from Fofo, in the district of Hoima, to nearby Runga in order to play several friendly matches, with both men's and women's teams participating.

Some survivors who spoke with Efe on the phone said many passengers had been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident.

"As some passengers on the ship were drunk, they could not tell that the ship was sinking," said Zawadi Rundi, 20, who explained that the ship began to list immediately after leaving port, but many aboard thought this was a normal situation caused by the characteristics of the lake.

According to Obura, preliminary investigations indicated the incident was caused by the vessel being overloaded during a spell of bad weather, with strong gusts of winds that engulfed the ship shortly after it set sail.

At least 32 people were rescued thanks to the rapid intervention of fishermen and other villagers, he said, adding that the Ugandan Army's marine force would be joining the search.

Emmanuel Ageno, also 20 years old and who managed to swim to shore, said those aboard had been alerted to the situation when water began to pour into the boat, also confirming that many occupants were drunk.

This was not the first time that a ship transporting soccer players sinks into Lake Albert.

On Christmas Day, 2016, at least 30 soccer players and fans lost their lives when an overloaded boat was shipwrecked in Buliisa, a city on the shores of the lake.EFE

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