Geneva — Rescuers have saved 146 survivors of a Tanzanian passenger ferry accident that happened on Wednesday afternoon near Chumbe Island in Zanzibar.
The ferry, MV Skagit, which is certified for 250 people, capsized as it was travelling to Zanzibar after leaving Dar-es-Salaam at around 12 noon local time. Local sources said the ferry was carrying more than 280 passengers.
The Tanzania Red Cross National Society was among the first responders at the site of the accident. Disaster Management Director, Julius Kejo said that so far, 31 people were confirmed dead, though there are conflicting numbers from other sources.
Prevailing weather reports at the time of the accident indicated presence of strong winds. "Strong waves hit the boat causing it to lose control. Passengers were sent into panic as they scrambled for lifejackets," said one of the survivors.
Tanzania Red Cross Disaster Response Manager, Kibar Tawakal said that the National Society has established a response unit at the Zanzibar port to provide first aid and offer information to relatives of passengers.
In addition, over 20 volunteers have been deployed to assist in search and rescue operations at the scene as well as giving first aid services to the survivors.
Another team of volunteers has been placed on standby at the port, where the Red Cross has installed five tents equipped with supplies such as warm blankets in readiness to receive the survivors. Psychosocial support is also being offered.
Two Tanzania Red Cross vehicles have been placed on standby to take survivors to the nearest hospitals. A consignment of supplies, including body bags, gloves, face masks and blankets has also been sent to the site of the disaster.
Search and rescue operations went on despite unfavourable weather but halted at nightfall.
The National Society continues to monitor the situation as it evolves.
This is Tanzanian's second boat tragedy in less than a year that on the Dar-es-Salaam Zanzibar route. The last boat incident was in September 2011, where over 1,000 lives were lost.