Tanzania: Zanzibar counts its dead after boat disaster

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Zanzibar authorities in Tanzania are yet to confirm the total number of people feared dead in Friday’s ferry disaster. The MV Faith which left the Ports in Dares-Salami, the capital of Tanzania in the afternoon, capsized minutes before it docked at the Malindi Ports of Stone Town in Zanzibar, late Friday night.

It is not clear how many passengers were on board when the accident happened and the official estimate of the number of deaths is yet to be known. There have been controversial reports coming in since Friday. Some unconfirmed reports say about 50 people are now dead while others say the number is less than 20. Figures from eyewitnesses on the ground however confirmed that only six bodies have so far been recovered and scores of people still missing.

This accident comes shortly after the nation’s marked the 13th Anniversary of the Lake Victoria ship tragedy that left more than 500 people dead in May, 1996.

Meanwhile, search operations are still in progress and divers have been working round the clock since the disaster struck. Mustaf Jumbe, head of Zanzibar’s main Ports of Stone Town, said search operations were launched late Friday and still ongoing. “So far, we have recovered three bodies and 27 people were rescued,” he told the AFP news on Saturday.

Zanzibar is an Island and a separate authority which has its own parliament and government but still remains part of the Tanzania Union.


The cause of the problem is yet to be known as both authorities promised investigation after the rescue mission ends. The Captain of the ship, Ussi Ali who was among those rescued, told reporters on Saturday that he experienced some problems with the Ship’s rudder and realised there was a massive leak on the hull. Ussi Ali is under arrest after reporting only 25 passengers and 13 crew members. The ferry is reported to have been carrying 70 instead of its required 40 tonne cargo.

Relatives and well-wishers on both sides of the country have been desperate to receive information about their love ones. Malichk, whose brother is a constant passenger of that route, phoned to ensure he wasn’t involved in the accident. “I have been calling to no avail. Fingers crossed, he might be somewhere else,” said Malichk.

Up till yesterday, no updated information was forthcoming from either the Tanzanian or Zanzibari officials. Anger has shot through the roof as conflicting reports, pointing to nonchalance on the part of port officials who were informed about the faulty boat prior to the disaster, emerge. Saif Sharif, the Civic United Front party’s secretary general, called on the Transport Minister to resign now.

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