‘I lost my mummy in the water’

2011-09-10 15:33

The ferry accident that killed 163 people in Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania came as no surprise to locals, a hotel manager told City Press.

The ferry, carrying 600 passengers, capsized early yesterday morning, with rescuers saving 326 people.

According to Eugene Skoberla, the manager of The Zanzibari hotel, overloaded ferries from the tourist destination are an ongoing problem.

“They’ve been overloading boats for a while. The ferry came from Dar es Salaam already full of people and stopped here to collect more people and cargo.”

At least 40 of those rescued were seriously injured. Some were hit by falling debris as the boat rolled onto one side, according to Mohammed Aboud, Zanzibar’s minister for emergencies.

Officials said families returning home after the holidays to celebrate the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan are believed to have been among the passengers.

The $5 (R35) one-way trip on the The MV Spice Islander is the only mode of transport for locals to get to Pemba, as the flights normally used by tourists are too expensive.

Skoberla said the boats are normally so packed that people sit on the floor between the seats.

“You can’t move once you’re on the boat. Apparently a lot of people turned around on Friday night and said the boat was too full. The taxi services here are the same – they pack 22 people into a 12-seater minibus,” he said.

Cellphone network Zantel crashed repeatedly during the course of yesterday as locals tried to get information about their loved ones.

Although the port authorities are supposed to regulate the ferries, there is no decent policing or controls that disallow overloading.

An emergency centre has been established in Stone Town, the main port and capital of the archipelago, to treat those arriving from the capsized boat by rescue speed boat.

“It was terrifying, people were screaming and shouting in the dark. I can’t find my mummy, I lost her when we were all in the water,” said seven-year-old Aisha Mohammed.

Other survivors angrily accused port and ferry officials of overloading the boat. “We were shouting at the captain and at the people in the port, even before we left, that the boat was too full,” said Zaid Amour, a 50-year-old survivor.

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

Zanzibar’s bustling tourism industry is not expected to be affected by the accident, as most tourists do not use the same ferries as the locals to travel between islands.

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