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Tanzanian ferry was 'overloaded'

Mwanza, Tanzania (Reuter) - Hundreds of passengers were believed dead yesterday with many bodies feared trapped in a capsized Tanzanian ferry in Lake Victoria's worst shipping disaster.

The exact death toll was unknown. The MV Bukoba's legal capacity was 433 passengers. But state radio said more than 500 people died in the tragedy and the boat was heavily overloaded.

In the lakeside town of Mwanza, President Benjamin Mkapa announced an official inquiry into the sinking of the ferry on Tuesday and said Tanzania needed help to retrieve the dead. The Transport Minister, William Kusisla, said expert divers and cutting equipment were needed to free the bodies from the wreck.

Despite official assurances that everything possible was being done, some witnesses said rescue work was poorly organised.