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Monday, September 12, 2011

Zanzibar in Mourning

On the morning of Saturday September 10th I was laying in bed enjoying my late start to a relaxing day. At 9:30am I received a text message from the YCI Volunteer Coordinator here in Zanzibar notifying me that in the early hours of the morning on Saturday, a ferry carrying (what was then thought to be only 650) passengers capsized and sank en route to Pemba Island. The YCI Coordinator is originally from Pemba and if you recall my blog about my business trip to Pemba in July you will remember that he still has many relatives living in Pemba, of which some were on board the ferry.

At 9:30am on Saturday, the YCI Coordinator, along with thousands of other Zanzibari's stood waiting outside the Mnazi Mmoja Hospital in Stone Town while doctors read out the names of the survivors and posted lists on the walls. Unfortunately, this same mass of people were also waiting for the bodies of those found dead to be brought to the football fields near the Mnazi Mmoja Hospital in Stone Town for identification.

Crowds of people wait to identify their loved ones
Apparently, the original number of passengers on the ferry was said to be 650 as that is the maximum capacity of the ship. However, many families were returning to Pemba after celebrating school holidays on the mainland so I can only imagine how many bribes were paid at this point to ensure that everyone got a spot on the ship. This means that countless people were unregistered on the ships manifest, thereby making it that much more difficult to conduct a proper search and rescue.

The number of people found alive and the number of people found dead add up to more than 650 people meaning that the ship was terribly overcrowded with both passengers and cargo. Currently, there have been nearly 200 deceased found in the water through rescue searches or washed up on shore in Nungwi  (the northern tip of Zanzibar -- also a very popular tourist destination). The number of people found alive in the Indian Ocean, clinging to anything that floats, is currently at 606.

Authorities are concluding that the cause of the accident was engine failure due to overcrowding of a ship that was in poor condition to begin with. The ship set sail from Dar es Salaam in mainland Tanzania and stopped at Unguja Island (Zanzibar) to pick up more passengers and cargo before departing to Pemba Island. From what I have read online, it was at this stop that some passengers began to be worry about the state of the ship with so many people. Some people tried to exit the ship in Zanzibar out of fear but, apparently, the ladders were pulled up quickly leaving only a few people to exit the ferry in Zanzibar on a gut reaction.

Who is at fault? "Mohamed Aboud Mohamed, the island's minister of state, said that investigations are focused on why a ship licensed to carry 600 people was allegedly carrying more than 800" (The Telegraph).

Three days of mourning for the deceased and their families began on Sunday and fundraising efforts began today (Monday September 12th). Since many Zanzibari's have lost multiple relatives, including children, from this accident, fundraising efforts are going to provide emergency relief as well as support for families who cannot afford the cost of funeral services or to families who cannot afford to provide for relatives who have lost primary caregivers.

Please, if you have any contribution to make to this tragic accident (no matter how big or small), please visit the following website for more information on how you can help and how your donation will help those in mourning.

SAIDIA ZANZIBAR  --- Website for donations

In terms of the number of deceased this accident was fairly small unfortunately, not making many headlines and breaking news stories in international media. However, this disaster is greatly affecting the lives of countless people in Zanzibar. So please, make sure to "share" my blog on your facebook, twitter, or other social media sources in order to ensure the news of this accident is shared around the world. "Share" my blog by clicking the social media icons at the bottom of the blog.

Sources and Further Reading:

Daily News Online (Tanzania) - September 12, 2011
CNN - September 11, 2011
France 24 - September 11, 2011
The Citizen - September 12, 2011
Capital FM News (Kenya) - September 10, 2011
BBC World News - September 10, 2011

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