Zanzibar ferry sinking, scores missing

2012-07-18 22:05
Tourists are brought ashore wrapped in blankets on Zanzibar island, Tanzania after ferry accident off the coast. (Khalfan Said, AP)

Tourists are brought ashore wrapped in blankets on Zanzibar island, Tanzania after ferry accident off the coast. (Khalfan Said, AP)

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Stone Town - A ferry with more than 280 people on board, including some foreigners, sank off the east African coast of the Zanzibar archipelago on Wednesday, killing at least 15 people, the government said.

The ferry, MV Skagit/Kalama, set sail from the mainland Tanzania at around midday heading to Zanzibar, Tanzania's semi-autonomous archipelago and a popular tourist destination.

Rescue boats and divers were searching for any remaining survivors on the mostly submerged vessel.

"So far 15 bodies have been recovered," Mwinyihaji Makame, a state minister in the president's office, told reporters.

Government spokesperson Yusuf Chunda added: "One foreigner, a woman is among the dead. Thirteen other foreigners were rescued and are in hospital."

It was not clear how many other foreigners had been on board. Zanzibar police spokesperson Mohammed Mhina said by telephone that many passengers were missing.

"More than 200 people are believed to have been on board the boat when it capsized. We don't know how many of them sank with the boat," Mhina said.

"The rescue operation is ongoing as we speak but almost the entire boat has been submerged in water ... only a small part of the boat is now visible."

Preliminary reports indicated the vessel had capsized after being hit by strong winds and waves, he said.

Police said the vessel was carrying 250 adult passengers and 31 children when it capsized near Chumbe island, west of Zanzibar.

The ferry is owned by a company named Seagull, which also runs a number of other ferries. Previous reports had indicated the vessel was called MV Salama.

More than 200 people were killed when a crowded ferry sank in September 2011 off the coast of east Africa in the worst maritime disaster in the history of Zanzibar.

Read more on:    tanzania  |  zanzibar  |  east africa  |  ferry disasters  |  maritime accident
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