Zanzibar — THE Unguja North Tourists Hotels, which have rescue diving teams have joined the rescue operations at Chumbe islet since on Friday.
The Deputy Principal Secretary, in the office of the Second Vice- resident (Disaster Management),Mr Saidi Shaaban confirmed that the divers were helping in the rescue operations. The hotels have always rendered a hand of help in such disaster situations, said the minister.Sources said that the Unguja North hotels' divers have the equipment to reach beyond 50 metres.
Speaking on the location of the ship in the Chumbe deep seas,the Commissioner of Police, Mr Mussa Ali said that the ship is currently between 50 and 100 metres below the ocean.
The Zanzibar government was expected to close down Maisara ground, where recovered bodies from the ferry disaster were displayed for identification.
The acting minister responsible for disaster management Mr Ali Juma Shamuhuna announced that the death toll has reached 68.
He said in a statement that search for more bodies would continue, but: "the recovered bodies would be quickly buried because they are decomposing. Unidentified bodies will be buried by the government at Kama village national graveyard."
Pathologists Dr Marijan Msafiri from Mnazi and Dr Ahmed Makata from the police, respectively, said that some unidentified bodies including that of a foreign man were still preserved at the mortuary at Mnazi Mmoja Hospital.
"We have already got DNA and finger prints that will help us know the origin of the foreigner," said Dr Makata. Out of the 68 bodies, ten are yet to be identified.
However, some people from Dar es Salaam and Kenya were until Friday still finding difficulties in transporting bodies of their deceased relatives back to their native villages.
Mr Ali Mzee Moto from Dar es Salaam informed reporters that he was among people still looking for their missing relatives, but also said it was important to display photos and names of the recovered bodies in Dar es Salaam and on internet.
According to Minister Shamuhuna, Mv Skagit with 290 passengers including nine crew members capsized on Wednesday as it was sailing from Dar es Salaam port to Zanzibar killing more than 65 people and more than 50 still missing.
President Jakaya Kikwete led senior officers from the union government and more than 40 MPs from the union parliament to come to Zanzibar to comfort President Ali Mohamed Shein and Zanzibaris following the tragedy.
Authorities in Zanzibar say that bad weather including harsh tides is blamed for the disaster. But several legislators in the Zanzibar House of Representatives said that the government and the ministry responsible for transport have not been serious in taking safety precautions since similar accident last September.
"The ministry responsible for marine transport should also bear the blame for not being serious in making sure transport regulations are observed," said Salmin Awadhi Salmin.
President Jakaya Kikwete had also 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. The Zanzibar government also announced the same three days of mourning.
Mr Kikwete also sent condolences to the President of Zanzibar, 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 part of a press statement issued 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 to recover and continue with their normal duties in building the nation," he said in the statement.
The ill-fated passenger ferry sunk on Wednesday afternoon at Chumbe on its way to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam port. 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 and harsh weather conditions.At that time, some 136 passengers had been rescued alive while 31 bodies had been recovered.