Transport minister resigns over Zanzibar ferry horrorBy SALMA SAID for The Citizen | Tuesday, July 24 2012 at 08:12
The Zanzibari minister responsible for marine transportation has resigned following a ferry disaster last week presumed to have killed 144 people.
Infrastructure and Communication minister Hamad Masoud Hamad tendered his resignation to the semi-autonomous island's President Dr Ali Mohammed Shein on July 20.
Mr Rashid Seif Suleiman has been appointed to replace him.
The Mv Skagit, carrying 290 people, sank last Wednesday while crossing from the mainland Tanzania to Zanzibar. Some 145 people were rescued, while 73 bodies have so far been recovered.
Survivors said there had been no advance warning, with reports saying that the captain appeared to have lost control of the vessel after it was buffeted by strong waves.
It then capsized at Chumbe islet, a few kilometres from Zanzibar’s Malindi Port.
One of them, Mr Hassan Khatib, said the ocean had been very rough since they left Dar es Salaam at noon. "There were strong winds and high waves. Even people with experience in the sea testified that the situation was worrying,” he said. He said that conditions worsened when they arrived at Chumbe islet.
"The vessel lost direction and it sunk as a result... it first tilted to one side. When it turned on the other side I was thrown into the water together with many other passengers,” he said.
Mr Khatib said that despite the rough seas, there was no warning or alert from the captain or other crew about the impending danger. Many people would have been rescued had the assistance come on time, he said.
"We scrambled for about two hours before we saw the first rescue team. By then many people had died... we witnessed many people, who could not swim die,” he said.
He said after the accident, an aircraft circled overhead before leaving. Two hours later the first rescue teams arrived. “But I am thankful that I have survived,” he said.
Another survivor, who preferred anonymity, said the crew did not give them any information on the situation.
"We were not told about the danger we were facing or how we can save ourselves in case of any accident... many people were trapped inside the ship when it capsized,” he said.
One of the rescuers said they arrived at the area when the ship was still sinking. "There were some rescue facilities, which helped us save a few people,” he said.
Meanwhile President Shein has formed a committee to investigate the Mv Skagit tragedy. News agency AFP reported that Zanzibar Police commissioner Musa Ali Musa saying that three men, including boat owner Saidi Abdulrahman, captain Mussa Makame and another official from the boat company, were being questioned.
The accident occurred only nine months after another ship, Mv Spice Islanders, sank off the coast of Zanzibar on its way to Pemba in September last year, killing more than 200 people.
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