At least 190 people died yesterday and another 40 people are in a “serious condition” after an overloaded ferry sank off with almost 600 onboard between Zanzibar and Pemba island, Tanzania.
Tanzanian government called for an immediate investigation to uncover the reasons for the disaster.
Survivors of the ferry disaster in Zanzibar
“The ship’s manifest shows that the vessel travelling from Unguja to Pemba islands had more than 500 passengers on board,” Zanzibar Police Commissioner Mussa Alli Mussa said.
“Some 260 passengers have so far been rescued … we have recovered several bodies but I can’t give you the exact death toll at the moment because the situation is very volatile,” he said.
190 people drown in the ferry tragedy in Tanzania
Passengers described the terrifying moment when they realized something had gone wrong, with people began to scream as the boat tilted to one side and water rushed in.
“I realized something strange on the movement of the ship. It was like zigzag or dizziness,” said 15-year-old Yahya Hussein, who survived by clinging to a plank of wood with three others.
“After I noticed that I jumped to the rear side of ship and few minutes later the ship went lopsided.”
Hussein said there had been many children aboard the ship.
“After the ship began to list, water rushed through the main cabin and stopped the engines,” said Mwita Massoud, another survivor.
Those passengers lucky enough to find something to cling to floated in the dark waters for at least three hours until the strong currents began to wash them up on the white sandy shores of Zanzibar.
Throughout the day, police waded through the clear waters to shore, carrying bodies on stretchers, wrapped in brightly colored cloth and blankets.
Tourists on the popular island of Zanzibar helped survivors and local charities provided blankets and tea.
Tourists on the popular island of Zanzibar helped survivors and local charities provided blankets and tea
Pemba island is about 25 miles from Zanzibar. Passengers who regularly take ferries between the two islands said the vessels are in a poor state of repair and are often overcrowded and loaded with cargo.
“They normally pack us in like sardines in a can. And for that I really fear this could be a very big disaster,” said resident Mwnakhamis Juma.
The government in Zanzibar said last month it planned to invest in bigger, more reliable vessels to ferry passengers between the two islands.
“We are fearing the greatest calamity in the history of Zanzibar. This is a disaster,” said a government official, who declined to be named.
In 2006, another ship capsized in Zanzibar, killing hundreds of people. But the government still did not invest in better ferries or boats capable of mounting a rescue.
At least 100 people died and many other were missing after a ferry with 600 onboard sank off the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar.
259 people, including 60 children, have been rescued, according to Mohammed Aboud, Zanzibar‘s state minister for emergencies. Among them, 40 were seriously injured.
At least 100 people died and many other were missing after a ferry with 600 onboard sank off the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar
The ferry, a MV Spice Islander was travelling between Zanzibar’s main island, Unguja, and Pemba, the archipelago’s other main island – popular tourist destinations.
People were coming back from holiday at the end of Ramadan.
The Zanzibar government has set up a rescue centre and called up on all reserves to join the rescue effort and also called for support from other countries, such as South Africa and Kenya.
Zanzibar police commissioner Mussar Hamis said that the survivors were ferried by privately owned fast ferries and brought back to the main harbour in the historic Stone Town.
So far, 100 dead bodies have been recovered, according to BBC.
The ferry was travelling between Zanzibar's main island, Unguja, and Pemba
A British tourist in Zanzibar, Catherine Purvis, who waiting for a ferry to take her to the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, said she saw lots of bodies being brought out of the water.
“I’m standing at the port in Zanzibar with about 10 other British and American tourists.
“Our ferry has been delayed as they’re using all ferries to rescue the people from the ship.
“People are being carried across in front of us on a drip. There are lots of body bags.”
Local helicopter pilot Captain Neels van Eijk flew over the disaster area.
“We found the survivors holding onto mattresses and fridges and anything that could float. It’s hard to tell the exact numbers, but I’d say there were more than 200 survivors in the water and some bodies too,” he told the BBC.
“By then, there were a few boats that had made their way out. They were looking for survivors, but although the sea wasn’t so rough, the waves were high so it was difficult for them to spot them.
“We flew to the boats and guided them to the survivors so that they could pick them up. There were also quite a few bodies in the water.”
The ferry left Unguja at around 21:00 (19:00 GMT) and is said to have sank at around 01:00 (23:00 GMT).
The ferry was heavily overloaded and some passengers refused to board as a result, survivor Abdullah Saied is quoted as saying by the AP news agency.