By James Kunda
LUSAKA, Zambia (AA) - Zambia engaged the military Saturday to fast-track rescue efforts for eight church members involved in a marine accident.
A boat carrying 44 members of the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church capsized Friday on Lake Bangweulu in Luapula Province, with 28 people rescued, while 11 were reported dead.
But statistics remained contradictory as authorities said the boat carried 41 member and 28 had been rescued, while 12 were still missing and a child was confirmed dead.
The government said eight bodies had been retrieved and eight are still missing.
The SDA reported the 29 members were rescued, including a coxswain, adding that 12 adults and three children were still missing.
Police Chief Gloria Mulele said the victims were sailing to a church program hours before the start of the sabbath.
"The survivors have been rushed to the district hospital for medical attention. Whilst on the lake strong waves and winds which engulfed the lake hammered into the boat and it capsized as the coxswain failed to control it," Mulele said in an email statement, adding that the missing are between the ages of 2 and 28.
The SDA separately said official information received indicated that 29 people, including the coxswain, were rescued, while 15 were yet to be seen and the rescue team had returned.
"As at now, four of those rescued, have been hospitalized, while the rest have been discharged. Search is told to continue tomorrow," said the church.
Government spokeswoman Chushi Kasanda said in another version that 28 people were rescued while 16 were reported missing.
Kasanda said in an update that eight bodies had been retrieved, with eight still missing.
"It is with deep shock and sadness that the President has learnt of the accident involving a boat reportedly carrying 44 Seventh Day Adventist church choir members, which capsized on Lake Bangweulu. The pain of losing so many lives of young people in a single tragedy of this magnitude, is unbearable," Kasanda said in an emailed statement.
She said marine forces had been dispatched to help with the search for bodies, adding that President Hakainde Hichilema directed the government to provide coffins, food and other support to funeral homes to ease the burden on the church and bereaved families.