Speaker of the National Assembly Anne Makinda yesterday postponed House sessions until this morning following Wednesday’s sinking of MV Skagit in the Indian Ocean.
Makinda said already her office had sent a delegation of 18 members of Parliament to Zanzibar and that a certain amount from the MPs’ Thursday allowance will be deducted to support victims of the ship accident.
Given the weight of the tragedy, the government has announced three days of mourning effective yesterday, whereby all flags will be flying at half-mast.
Makinda said the situation at the scene where the rescue operation was going on didn’t give way for Parliamentary sessions to continue as usual.
“Everybody here is distressed and I don’t think we’ll be able to concentrate, as everybody is thinking about the accident,” she explained.
On the estimated number of people lost in the accident, she said: “Taking into account the number of those missing (at least 113), we believe that many people lost their lives.”
Giving a preliminary report on the accident, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (Policy, Coordination and Parliamentary Affairs) William Lukuvi said the accident involved MV Skagit, property of Segul Company, which is registered in Zanzibar.
He said earlier reports indicated that it was carrying 290 people – 250 adults, 31 children and 9 crews.
“The rescue operation is going on and as we are told that 146 people have been rescued and 31 bodies have been found. Already the relatives have identified the bodies,” Lukuvi said.
The minister informed that the ship was also carrying 14 tourists, of whom twelve have been rescued alive, one have dead and one was still missing. “The rescue team is still searching for 113 people,” said Lukuvi.
He said the office of the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner has been selected as a focal point for all information related to the accident. “Currently, burial procedures are being held in Zanzibar, as efforts to search for those missing continues,” said the State Minister.
Home Affairs Minister Dr Emmanuel Nchimbi on Wednesday moved a motion to postpone the winding up of his budget estimates following the accident.
In his statement to the public on Wednesday, Commander in-Chief of armed forces, President Jakaya Kikwete, instructed the defence and security organs to step up rescue operations.
He said the rescue operation was being done in collaboration with Zanzibar’s security organs and private ships.
Meanwhile, Kikwete sent a condolence message to Zanzibar President Dr Ali Mohamed Shein following the loss of lives in Wednesday’s ship accident.
He requested him to convey his condolences to families which have lost their relatives in the accident and also to those who sustained injuries. “The losses hurt us all,” a State House statement issued yesterday quoted him, as saying.
He commended Dr Shein and other leaders for their efforts in dealing with the emergency.