At least eight people are feared dead after the boat they were traveling in capsized on Lake Bangweulu in Samfya district.
Reports reaching local police say the eight were part of the 16 passengers who were on board the paddled banana boat.
Among those feared dead is Saviour Kayope, aged over 50 years, younger brother of Valentine Kayope, who served as a cabinet minister during the second republic.
Luapula Province acting Police Commanding Officer, Muweswa Wakwinji, confirmed to ZANIS the tragedy which occurred on Saturday afternoon.
Mr Wakwinji said the boat was traveling to Isenga on the shores of Mbabala, and most of the passengers were fish mongers who were traveling with their children.
He said there are no records to indicate the exact number of passengers who were on the boat, but the four survivors contacted by police said there were about 16 people on board.
So far, three bodies, of a grade 11 school girl, a woman aged 34 and her six-year-old son, have been retrieved.
Mr Wakwinji identified the school girl as Given Mulubwa of Katanshya village in chief Kasomabangweulu’s area; the 34 year old woman was identified as Esnart Malama of Shoni village in chief Mibenge’s area who was travelling with two of her young sons, Isaac and James Mwanawumo, aged six and four respectively. Issac’s body was retrieved by police yesterday.
The police chief said the other eight passengers remain unaccounted for, but the search by police and some members of the community has continued.
Willaim Chisapa a relative of Saviour Kayope, who was on the boat when it capsized, told ZANIS that the family is already holding the funeral because they have lost hope of finding him alive.
“All we are waiting for is to retrieve the body. As you can see we are already holding the funeral here,” Mr Chisapa said.
And Annie Malama, a relative of the 34-year-old woman traveling with her sons whose bodies were retrieved, said she had six relatives on the boat.
Ms Malama, who was found at Bangweulu water transport where police were launching the search, said she had two sisters on the boat – Esnart Malama with her two young children, and Jennifer Mwansa, 33 who was also traveling with a six year-old daughter.
She named another relative as Majorie, aged 27. Ms Malama said she fears for the lives of the other four family members who have not yet been found.
Meanwhile Mr Wakwinji has observed that there is need for police and water transport authorities in the district to strengthen the safety measures among private passenger boat operators.
“It looks as though there are no regulations and owners of the private boats operate without taking into consideration safety measures. Authorities here should help to register these boats and ensure that they follow all safety measures including the carrying capacity of their vessels which is not the case at present,” he said.