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Ferry death toll hits 144 as recovery mission is halted

Discussion in 'Jukwaa la Siasa' started by BAK, Jul 22, 2012.

  1. BAK

    BAK JF-Expert Member

    Jul 22, 2012
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    [TD="class: contentheading, width: 100%"]Ferry death toll hits 144 as recovery mission is halted [/TD]
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    [TD="class: createdate"] Sunday, 22 July 2012 00:18 [/TD]
    By Salma Said and Raymond Kaminyoge, The Citizen Correspondents

    The Zanzibar government yesterday called recovery operations with 144 people presumed dead in Wednesday’s ferry disaster.

    Seventy-six people were still unaccounted for and presumed dead after 68 bodies were recovered from the area near Chumbe islet where the MV Skagit sank with over 250 people on board.

    Zanzibar Second Vice President Seif Ali Idd said when receiving a donation from NMB Bank for survivors of the accident that rescuers working in hazardous conditions had not recovered any body in the past two days, prompting the government to call off recovery operations.

    “We have halted recovery operations and decided to hold prayers for those who died tomorrow (today) in all mosques in Unguja and Pemba. The prayers will be held at the national level at Mwembeshauri Mosque in Rahaleo, Zanzibar,” he said.

    A senior police officer, Mr Mussa Ali Mussa, said divers returned from the accident area in the afternoon yesterday without a single body.
    Earlier, Zanzibar cabinet minister Ali Juma Shamuhuna said the rescue efforts were called off because it was unlikely to still find any passengers alive in the Indian Ocean three days after the accident.

    Of the at least 290 people who were on board the ill-fated vessel, 146 were rescued while 68 bodies were recovered. The acting director of the Zanzibar Marine Vessels Authority, Mr Abdallah Hussein Kombo, said the recovery mission had become “too difficult” for divers and other members of the team.

    Earlier, a diver who asked not to be named said they were able to locate the capsized ferry, but could not do anything for lack of equipment needed to lift the vessel to the water surface.

    “We could see the ferry, but it was not possible to either turn it over or lift it out of the water so that the bodies trapped inside could be pulled out. We didn’t have the necessary equipment,” he said.

    He said it was likely that bodies that were still in the sunken ferry were badly decomposed, adding that the decision to halt the recovery was the right one.

    The identification of bodies at Maisara grounds ended on Friday after the government buried ten uncollected corpses. A Dutch couple was among the victims of this week’s ferry disaster in Zanzibar, the Netherlands foreign ministry said on Friday. The couple’s family told the ministry they were worried after they were left without any news for days.

    “The woman’s body has been found,” a ministry spokesman said. She was identified by her family in the Netherlands after the Dutch embassy in Dar es Salaam sent a picture via the Internet.

    The man’s body had not yet been found. “A Dutch couple died in the ferry disaster between Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar,” the spokesman told AFP.

    Five Dutch nationals – three men and two women – were among the around 146 survivors of the capsizing of the MV Skagit. Several tourists were on board the ferry. Brussels and Berlin have confirmed that Belgian and German nationals were also among the survivors.

    Meanwhile, a Canadian company said it brokered the sale of the MV Skagit and that the ship was seaworthy at the time of sale.

    “Scope Community Consultants Ltd was asked to coordinate the purchase of two sister ferries from Washington State Ferries and shipping them from Seattle to Zanzibar last year,” Scope representative Peter Shayo wrote in an email to AFP.