The Ferry Capsized. But Someone Was Alive Inside

Engineer Augustine Charahani struggled for survival
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2019 11:45 AM CST
Man Recalls Ordeal Inside Capsized Ferry for 40 Hours
A police officer, in foreground, looks out across the water at the capsized MV Nyerere passenger ferry as it lies upturned near Ukara Island, Tanzania Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018.   (AP Photo/Andrew Kasuku)

Ferry, upside-down. Engine room, flooding. Air pocket, shrinking. But engineer Augustine Charahani found the peace of mind to curl up on a flight of stairs and wait over 40 hours in the hope rescuers would find him, the New York Times reports. His ordeal began Sept. 20 in Lake Victoria, Tanzania, where the overcrowded ferry capsized about 160 feet from its destination, Ukara Island. Seems a sudden turn by the pilot or a rush of passengers when disembarking caused the boat to flip. About 40 managed to swim ashore and 228 drowned, per Tanzania's Daily News, which left Charahani alone with the floor above his head and ceiling underwater. "Their screams were so loud," he recalls of the disaster. "I think they struggled and drowned almost immediately." Then came the silence and the dark.

He screamed for help, rapped his keys on the wall—thought he heard a knock in return once, but no one came—and dared fall asleep with his head nestled on a life jacket. "Anytime I slept, there was a good chance of me sliding and falling back into the water," he remembers. Charahani says he saw Jesus while asleep and his four children while awake: Who will take care of them? Why had he taken such a dangerous job? Will death take me? Feeling faint and hungry, with the room about two-thirds flooded and air dissipating, Charahani felt a diver grab his ankle. Soon a diving team was ushering him out of the boat and into an ambulance, which took him to an Ukara Island clinic where relatives desperately awaited news about their loved ones. Charahani's conclusion: "This is my second chance to live." (Read more boat accident stories.)

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