THE Zanzibar boat accident involving MV Skagit has highlighted the need for boating safety, as several survivors say the deadly accident could have been avoided.
"We started screaming for help at around 1.30 pm (local time) after seeing harsh waves. The boat lost control in the strong waves which hit it three times. The fourth hit toppled the vessel," said Mohammed Hajji, battling for his life at Mnazi Mmoja Hospital.
He said that the accident should have been avoided if the pilot and crew members cancelled the journey due to the unfriendly weather and also if rescue operations started earlier. Many lives would have been saved.
Mouhsin Salum 'Muddy', who was among the rescued victims was unconscious shortly before the rescue team arrived, "but the sea was very rough."Many people battled to save their lives but, unfortunately, the sea was rough. The rescue was cancelled at around 18:40 hours due to darkness. The rough sea is to blame for the accident," Salum told the 'Daily News'.
Omar Kassim, another survivor, said he managed to save his life with the help of a travel bag. "I hanged onto someone's travel bag that was probably full of clothes for about three hours before I was rescued.
President Jakaya Kikwete has announced three days of national mourning whereby flags will fly at half-mast, following the deaths of 65 people aboard MV Skagit which capsized and sank at Chumbe on Wednesday.Mr Kikwete also sent condolences to the President of Zanzibar and Chairman of the Revolutionary Council, Dr Ali Mohamed Shein.
"After the tragedy on Wednesday, Mr Kikwete communicated with Dr Shein and passed him his condolences on behalf of all Tanzanians. He also expressed sympathy for those injured in the accident," said a press statement issued yesterday in Dar es Salaam by the Directorate of Presidential Communications.
According to the statement, President Kikwete had also directed all defence and security forces from Tanzania Mainland and Zanzibar to join forces in the rescue operation.
"The deaths have affected all of us. We pray for those who survived the tragedy to recover and continue with their normal duties in building the nation," Mr Kikwete said in the statement.
The ill-fated passenger ferry sank on Wednesday afternoon at Chumbe on its way to Zanzibar from the port of Dar es Salaam. It was reported to be carrying 290 passengers, among them 250 were adults, 31 children and nine crew members.
The Rescue operation, which involved security and defence forces of the Zanzibar Revolutionary Government as well as private vessels, was temporarily halted on Wednesday evening due to darkness.
At that time, some 136 passengers had been rescued alive while 31 bodies had been recovered. Mr Kikwete also hailed Dr Shein and other leaders for their determined efforts to deal with the situation since the accident occurred on Wednesday afternoon.
"The President also showered praise on officials and servicemen and women who took part in the rescue operations and urged them to continue with the spirit," the statement said.
He called on patience among the citizens as the rescue operation was still undergoing, noting that a special inquiry would be conducted to determine the source of the accident as it was the case for MV Spice Islander which sank on September 10, last year.
Members of Parliament were in sombre mood Thursday as business was suspended to mourn victims of the Mv Skagit which capsized off the Zanzibar coast on Wednesday.
The House observed a minute silence after the morning routine prayer. Thereafter the Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (coordination, policy and parliament), Mr William Lukuvi, informed the House that 31 bodies had been recovered as of Thursday morning.
He said 146 passengers had been rescued while the search for 113 others was continuing. The vessel had 290 passengers on board including 31 children and nine crew.
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Anne Makinda, expressed her condolences on behalf of the House, which she adjourned until today, observing that due to the magnitude of the disaster, business could not continue. Ms Makinda said the government had announced a three-day mourning period.
She added that a team of 18 MPs and ministers had since flown to Zanzibar and revealed that MPs had dedicated their one day sitting allowances towards the rescue operation. The Constitutional Review Commission has suspended collection of views in Zanzibar for three days due to the tragedy.