Dar es Salaam — All the 338 tourists who were accommodated at the Ocean Paradise Resort and Spa and Tui Blue hotels in Zanzibar were rescued to safety after fire broke out at the two five-star hotels located at Kiwengwa beach in the northeastern coast.
The inferno which broke out in the early hours of Saturday severely destroying the establishments, however, no fatality, injuries or loss of personal items were reported and that all the 338 tourists escaped unscathed.
The Zanzibar Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Ms Lela Mohamed Mussa told The Citizen over the phone that she arrived at the scene shortly after receiving reports of the incident.
According to her, she was informed that the overnight inferno first broke out at the Ocean Paradise Resort before spreading to the nearby hotel - Tui Blue Hotel.
"Fire broke out at a workshop of the Ocean Paradise, spread to a nearby room that stored 4,000 litres of fuel, therefore destroying the hotel's administration block and some other buildings," she said over the phone shortly after arriving in Unguja from the scene.
She added; "Strong winds on the fateful night spread the inferno to the neighbouring Tui Blue Hotel that experienced the worst of the fire damage."
She said 13 small buildings each comprising of eight accommodation rooms belonging to Tui Blue Hotel amounting to 104 rooms have been destroyed.
Ms Mussa said Tui Blue Hotel had accommodated 209 guests, mostly foreigners, while Ocean Paradise Resort had 129 guests
"Most of them have been moved to nearby hotels with the exception of a few who insisted on remaining at the ravaged hotels. Generally, they're all continuing with their itineraries as planned," she said.
The minister further added that the incident was a blow to the Isles government as Tui Blue Hotel alone that has 150 accommodation rooms contributed over Sh2 billion annually in terms of revenue and has employed over 300 people.
"Even though Ocean Paradise Resort didn't provide more details, but the contribution of the five-star hotel to Zanzibar's economy could exceed Sh1 billion to the government coffers as the hotel, with 94 accommodation rooms also employs over 200 people," she said.
According to her, the Fire and Rescue Brigade arrived at the scene 19 minutes after the inferno had broken out and managed to contain the fire at the Ocean Paradise Resort.
However, she said it was difficult for firefighters to move the water canon vehicles to Tui Blue Hotel due to poor infrastructural development in the area.
Therefore, she called on investors in the hospitality industry to prioritise infrastructural development in their locations in order to provide room for efficient rescue operations during emergencies.
She said it was too early for the hotels to establish the amount of losses incurred, noting that insurance companies have, however, pledged earlier payment in order to facilitate immediate resumption to normal operations.
"The government will do everything in its capacity to help the two hotels resume normal operations. Fortunately, Ocean Paradise promised to resume operations after four months," she said.
North Unguja Regional Police Commander Haji Abdalla Haji told Mwananchi newspaper that the cause of the fire hasn't been established yet.
"Most guests of the hotels were at the beach when the inferno broke out, something that probably reduced the impact," he said.
He said law enforcers were following up on the matter closely in order to establish the cause of the incident and accrued losses by the hotels.
The Zanzibar Association of Tourism Investors (Zati) Seif Miskry expressed his sadness at the fire accident but said he is confident that the hotels will bounce back.