Tanzania: At least 187 dead in ferry capsize, 100 missing

Last Updated: Sunday, September 11, 2011 - 00:32

Zanzibar: At least 187 people died
when a ferry capsized off the popular tourist archipelago of
Zanzibar, but over 100 people are still missing, a minister
said on Saturday.

"We have recovered 163 people who have died and we have
rescued 325 survivors," said Mohammed Aboud, Zanzibar`s state
minister for emergencies, dramatically updating an earlier
death toll of 53.

At least 40 of those rescued were seriously injured,
including some hit by falling debris as the boat rolled onto
one side, he said, adding that the death toll could still rise
higher.

Officials said that around 600 people were believed to
have been on the stricken ferry, including families returning
home after the holidays to celebrate the end of the Muslim
holy month of Ramadan.

Survivors have begun arriving back in Stone Town, the main
port and capital of the archipelago, with an emergency first
aid centre set up in the port to treat those arriving by
rescue speed boat from the capsized ferry.

"It was terrifying, people were screaming and shouting in
the dark," said Aisha Mohammed, aged seven.

"I can`t find my mummy, I lost her when we were all in the
water," she added, after being picked up by a rescue boat.
Other survivors angrily accused port and ferry officials
of overloading the boat.

"We were shouting at the captain and at the people in the
port even before we left that the boat was too full, it was
packed with people and with cargo," said Zaid Amour, a
50-year-old survivor.

"This was not an accident but is the fault of those who
did not stop the boat from leaving when it was clear to
passengers it was not safe."

The government pledged to do all it could to help.
"This is a national tragedy, so let us join hands together
over this," said Ali Mohammed Shin, president of the
semi-autonomous archipelago.

"The government of Zanzibar will do everything that it can
to support the victims of this terrible event."

The exact number of passengers on this type of ferry is
often difficult to establish as no reliable passenger lists
are kept.

"We have asked for emergency assistance from Dar es
Salaam, including divers, to help in the rescue efforts,"
Aboud said.

The MV Spice Islander, which was travelling between
Zanzibar`s main island Unguja and Pemba, two of the three
islands that make up Zanzibar, left Unguja around 2330 IST and
capsized four hours later.

"Sailors on the boat were still telling us `it is ok` when
we were calling for life jackets, so when things got really
bad it was too late for many people," Amour added.
The ferry was reportedly carrying a heavy cargo of rice
and other goods.

"Rescue operations are being hampered by a lack of
equipment," deputy secretary of state for infrastructure and
communication Issa Gavu told a news agency.

No foreigners have so far been reported amongst either the
dead or rescued, according to a reporter at the scene.

Ferries have a poor safety record in Tanzania.
In May 2009, a ferry capsized leaving six people dead,
while several fires on cargo boats have been reported in
recent years.

Tourism is the main foreign currency earner for Zanzibar,
famed for its white-sand beaches and historical buildings in
Stone Town, listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO, the
United Nations cultural organisation.

Pemba lies some 80 kilometres north-east of Unguja.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, September 10, 2011 - 14:15

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