ALLAFRICA.COM REPORT: The Zanzibar government has said it would conduct a thorough investigation to establish the cause of the ferry accident that killed at least 200 people.
The deaths occured after the ferry, which was travelling from Unguja to Pemba, capsized at around midnight on Friday at the Nungwi channel, about 20 kilometres from Zanzibar town.Zanzibar's First Vice President, Mr Seif Sharif Hamad, said yesterday that it was evident that the ferry, Spice Islander, involved in the accident was overloaded.
Mr Hamad, popularly referred to as Maalim Seif, said an estimation of the number of bodies retrieved from the water and survivors of the accident indicate that the ferry was carrying more than 610 people, far beyond its approved capacity.
"It is evident that the ferry's capacity allows for just over 600 people ... if you add the number of those who have been rescued and the bodies that have been retrieved, you get about 800 people ... in short, this ferry sank even before it left the Unguja port," he said.
He said though accidents were generally regarded as acts of God, in this case the government would work to establish the cause of the disaster.
He said marine laws and regulations provided the number of passengers that vessels could carry and those supervising the sector were mandated to ensure that such a capacity was maintained.Maalim Seif also said that passengers had the responsibility of caring for their safety. "There is no need to board a vessel which is evidently full," he said.
Meanwhile, the National Security Council met in Zanzibar yesterday to discuss the ferry tragedy.The Council met under the chairmanship of President Jakaya Kikwete, who arrived in Zanzibar on Saturday evening, to join other leaders from the Isles in consoling the victims of the accident.
The council met as countries started to send reinforcements to assist in the rescue operations though hopes of finding survivors were beginning to dim. The rescue operations were halted on Saturday night as there were no facilities to enable the exercise to be carried out in darkness.
Meanwhile, burial of the dead at a common site at Kama grounds started yesterday. As of yesterday noon some 42 bodies, including 20 adults and 22 children, had already been buried.An official who was supervising the exercise said the bodies were being buried with the participation of relatives after their identification.
"So far we have not buried anyone who has not been identified... those who have been buried here have been given a farewell by their relatives. What we are doing is assisting the relatives with preparations for burial," he said.
Meanwhile, as rescue operations resumed yesterday morning, there were reports of some bodies being located several kilometres from the scene of the accident, some of them near the Tanga coastline. Apparently, the bodies were washed away overnight by sea waves.
South Africa President Jacob Zuma yesterday sent a team from the country's Armed Forces to assist in the rescue operations. The team was sent with equipment for the exercise. South Africa's chief of defence forces N Mbaya quoted President Zuma as directing the team to do everything in its power to assist in the operation.
Reports from Johannesburg said the team of army officers, with facilities, left yesterday for Zanzibar to join the rescue operations.
Though the exact number of people who boarded the ferry was yet to be established, reports indicate that there were between 1,000 and 1,500 passengers. There are about 590 people who have been rescued.Meanwhile, the Civic United Front (CUF) also sent its condolences to the Zanzibar government and the families that have been affected by the tragedy.
Until yesterday morning, more than 180 bodies had been retrieved from the capsized ferry but there were prospects that more casualties might have been trapped inside the vessel.
Speaking with journalists on Saturday at the regional headquarters in Tanga, Special Seats MP and the director of Information, Publicity and Human Rights, Ms Amina Mwidau, said the party had received the information with great shock.
She urged individuals and institutions to join hands with the government in the rescue mission, so as to save as many lives as possible. SOURCE: