No hope of more survivors in Zanzibar

September 11, 2011 8:58 am

, ZANZIBAR, Sept 11 – Rescue teams resumed their search Sunday for victims of the ferry disasters off Zanzibar, in which at least 193 people died, without hopes of finding any more survivors.

“We will continue to look for bodies, but there is no hope any more of finding people alive. We are looking for the bodies so they can be buried,” police spokesman Mohamed Mhina said.

Meanwhile Tanzania on Sunday began three days of national mourning for the victims of the tragedy, one of the worst maritime disasters in Africa in the past decade.

The ferry Spice Islander, reportedly with more than 800 people as well as cargo on board, capsized early Saturday four hours into sailing between Unguja and Pemba, two of the three islands that make up Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania.

Overloading is believed to have caused the disaster. Some angry survivors accused port and ferry officials of having ignored the protests of passengers that the boat was overcrowded.

Rescuers managed to pick up 612 survivors, officials said, but were forced to suspend their work as night fell.

“Bodies which have been able to be identified yesterday have been buried, some of them during the night. Those who could not be identified have been buried with dignity by the government,” Mhina said, explaining that the rapidity of the burials was in accordance with Islam, the religon of the overwhelming majority of the population on Zanzibar.

He added that the morgue in the main hospital on Unguja, the biggest island in the archipelago, was not big enough to deal with a tragedy on this scale.

On Sunday morning inhabitants on Zanzibar were beginning to assemble in the Maisara stadium, where dozens of bodies were taken on Saturday so they could be identified, this time to mourn the victims.

A ceremony is being organised in the stadium to mark the start of three days of national mourning decreed by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete.

State television TBC1 reported that the head of state had cancelled a three-day trip to Canada in the wake of the disaster.

The latest figures on passengers suggested more than 800 people were on board the doomed ferry, including families returning home after the holidays to celebrate the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The exact number of passengers on this type of ferry is often difficult to establish as no reliable passenger lists are kept.

No foreigners have so far been reported amongst either the dead or rescued.

Tourism is the main foreign currency earner for Zanzibar, famed for its white-sand beaches and historical buildings in Stone Town, listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organisation.

Pemba lies some 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Unguja.


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