At least 28 people have been confirmed dead while some 108 others are still missing after a passenger ferry, whose name is yet to be established, capsized yesterday at Chumbe Island in Zanzibar.
In Zanzibar, it is known as Mv Karama Starlet, while the Surface and Marine Transport Authority (Sumatra) records show that it is known as MV Skagit.
The Zanzibar bound boat left Dar es Salaam yesterday at 12 noon but overturned on Zanzibar Channel at around 1.55 pm according to the Dar port control room.
There are conflicting reports regarding the number of passengers who lost their lives, those wounded and those rescued.
According to sources at least 150 passengers were rescued yesterday in the exercise that has been going on overnight.
According to the Surface and Marine Transport Authority (Sumatra) manifest, when the boat left Dar es Salaam port had 290 people on board of whom 250 were passengers, 31 children and nine members of the crew.
Speaking to The Guardian some of the injured passengers said strong sea waves were the cause of the accident.
“Strong waves hit the boat causing it to loose control and resulting into panic among the passengers who started to scramble for life saving jackets,” said one of the passengers at the scene.
“I have nothing to comment on this tragedy,” said Hashim Maulidi, one of the rescued pasengers who reside at Mikunguni, Zanzibar, said.
He said while they were in floating jackets they saw other passengers on the other side of the boat but later disappeared after the boat completely sank.
Some of the survivors said there were no efforts organised by the marine rescue centre to rescue them.
Zanzibar Acting Police Commissioner Said Juma Khamisi said they received information on the capsizing boat at 2 pm after which they immediately sent a rescue mission to the scene.
He said the source of the accident is yet to be established as investigation was still going on.
Zanzibar diver Ali Ramadhan said preparations for rescue exercise were not well made, causing them to delay to start the work, although they had arrived at the scene early.
He said the police boat had no fuel when it arrived at the scene.
Minister of State, President’s Office Dr Mwinyihaji Makame Mwadini said the deceased’s bodied would be identified at Maisara grounds. The wounded were taken to Mnazi Mmoja Hospital for treatment, he said.
This is another major marine incident where a number of people have been reported dead.
On September 10, last year 1,529 passengers died after the capsizing of MV Spice Islander at Nungwi in northern Zanzibar.
During the accident, 941 passengers were saved and over 1,000 others went missing.
Meanwhile, shocked Members of Parliament from Zanzibar yesterday voted with their feet out of the august House after Speaker of the National Assembly, Anne Makinda ruled out a motion to postpone Bunge activities to allow them travel to the Isles to see the victims.
It was Hamad Rashid Mohammed (Wawi, CUF) moved the motion to request the Speaker to suspend the House activities.
Responding, the Speaker said it was very unfortunate that majority of the MPs were misusing the House Standing Orders.
“I am aware that this matter is a serious one. In fact it is very serious and preponderate. Let’s finish discussing this budget as the government is working out to get precise information on the matter,” she said.
She further told the MPs to wait for the Home Affairs minister’s report on the incident.
However, after her remarks, all MPs from Zanzibar walking out in protest before holding press a conference Pius Msekwa Hall where they clarified the reasons for their protestation.
Immediately after the conference, the Speaker allowed Deputy Home Affairs minister Pereila Ame Silima to start winding up his ministry’s budget estimates.
A few minutes later, Home Affairs minister Dr Emmanuel Nchimbi stood and referring to Standing Order 58 (5) requested the Speaker to withdraw the tabled motion so that MPs could help the passengers involved in the capsized boat.
It was then that the Speaker adjourned the meeting to today.