A helicopter searches for victims of a boat which capsized in Lake Victoria near the capital, Kampala. Picture: AP Photo/Stephen Wandera

Johannesburg - Ugandan police have called off the search for bodies and possible survivors, following the sinking of a boat near Mutima Beach on Lake Victoria in Mukono District.

The police say only 59 of more than 100 passengers who were said to have been on board when the ill-fated MV Templar capsized on Sunday have been accounted for. Of those, 26 were rescued and 32 bodies recovered, the Daily Monitor reported on Tuesday.

The police spokesperson for the rescue and recovery operation, Zurah Ganyana, said efforts to find more bodies had been unsuccessful.

The boat had been sailing from KK Beach at Ggaba Landing Site in Kampala to K-Palm Beach in Mukono District.

During the rescue operation, the police tied a rope to the sunken boat, which had tilted to one side and started pulling it to allow divers to see whether there were any bodies underneath. They called off the operation after failing to turn it. 

The boat, which was probably also uninsured, according to a statement released by President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday, had a capacity for carrying only 50 people. According to police, the main cause of the accident was overloading.

However, the boat was also in a poor mechanical shape. According to media reports many of the boats that ply their trade on the lake and elsewhere in the region, lack standby engines, life jackets, reliable navigation and other safety features.

Boating tragedies in Uganda and neighbouring countries which border Lake Victoria are not new.

In September, Tanzanian President John Magufuli ordered the arrest of the management of a ferry that capsized in Lake Victoria, after 131 people drowned.

African News Agency (ANA)