LUSAKA, Zambia (AP) — At least 26 people, most of them children, died when a crowded boat capsized in Zambia while on the way to a national celebration, police said Saturday.
Among the drowned in Friday's accident were school children aged from six to 15 years, as well as a baby. The state broadcaster said 23 of those who died were children. One student survived.
They were travelling to another school across Lake Kariba, in the south of the country, where they were meant to participate in celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the southern African nation's independence from Britain.
"The death of these people is disheartening, more so that they were travelling for a national cause. They are true heroes," Dr. Joseph Katema, a government spokesman, said on Saturday, adding the deaths were difficult to bear amid the country's nationwide golden jubilee celebrations.
The accident was caused by overloading, according to authorities. The boat carried 20 people more than its capacity allowed.
Zambia's vice president, Guy Scott, visited the area with a police pathologist on Saturday and expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased. He said the government would shoulder the funeral expenses.
Military and police divers were sent to the lake to retrieve the bodies.
Two police officers were injured in a road accident while they were rushing to the scene of the accident, according to Zambian Watchdog, an online news outlet.
Lake Kariba lies along the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.