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Monday, September 12, 2011

Omani relatives want a full investigation into the cause of the boat’s capsizing in Zanzibar

Saleh Al Shaibany
12 September 2011 09:12:17 Oman Time

MUSCAT: Omani relatives of the people who died in the Zanzibar ferry disaster want a full investigation into the cause of the boat’s capsizing, which is reported to have been carrying passengers nearly twice its capacity at the time of the mishap.

The autonomous East African island of Zanzibar yesterday began three days of mourning for the victims of the ferry disaster that claimed nearly 200 lives with many more still lost at sea. Survivors say that the vessel, the MV Spice Islander, which had a capacity of 600 passengers, was carrying about 1,000 people plus cargo.

Survivors, who called their relatives in Muscat, said the ship was grossly overloaded and some passengers had left it when it started to tilt on one side while it was still docked at the port.

While many Omanis are sharing the grief of the families of the victims, those whose loved ones perished in the water are urging the Zanzibar government to thoroughly investigate the incident.

“They cannot allow this terrible accident go unpunished which has killed my 11-year-old nephew. The Zanzibar authorities must act immediately by starting an honest investigation to bring the culprits, who allowed the accident to happen, to book,” Zuhoora Al Ghaith, an Omani national whose brother lives in Zanzibar, told Times of Oman.

The boat, which capsized on Friday, was carrying passengers, half of them children going back to the island of Pemba after their Eid holidays from the Unguja Island. The twin islands make the autonomous country of Zanzibar, which maintains a loose union with Tanzania since its controversial unification in 1964.

Zanzibar was made the capital of Oman in 1832 and later became an independent Sultanate under a series of Omani Sultans until the last one was deposed by African majority in 1964.

Saif Al Harrasi, whose cousin Ali was among the dead, fears that the owners of the vessel would be spared because the port authorities allowed the captain of the boat to overload it. “The investigation will only scratch the surface and my fear is that it will not go deep enough because it will expose the negligence of government officials. I doubt if justice will be done,” Al Harrasi said.

According to reports from Zanzibar newspapers, about 520 passengers were rescued up to Sunday. It is not known exactly how many were on board. The youngest survivor was a five-month old baby who was found floating. According to Wikipedia, the vessel was built in 1967 in Greece and originally christened Marianna. A Zanzibari businessman, Makame Hasnuu, bought it in 2007 and renamed it Spice Islander.

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