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The captain of an overcrowded ferry that sank in Lake Victoria said Thursday that he had no memory of the disaster that killed at least 549 people.

An official of the state company that owned and operated the ship called its capsizing "a complete mystery," but did not rule out allegations that the captain and crew members accepted bribes to overload the ferry.Some of the 114 survivors said the overloaded ferry pitched from side to side before it turned over Tuesday, throwing passengers out of berths and onto wave-flooded decks. It swiftly capsized in calm seas eight miles northwest of its destination, Mwanza.

Passengers trapped in an air pocket in the hull begged for help for hours.

About 71/2 hours after the ship capsized, rescuers cut a hole in the hull with a torch. The air escaped, causing the ship to suddenly sink, a company official said.