Lifestyle & Belief

Tanzania: Dozens dead after sinking of former Washington ferry off Zanzibar


A man rescued from a ferry accident off Zanzibar in Sept., 2011, is taken to hospital in Nungwi.



At least 24 people — including two foreigners — were killed when a ferry sank off the coast of the Tanzanian archipelago of Zanzibar, officials told the media.

Dozens more were missing from the vessel — formerly a Washington state passenger-only ferry, according the Seattle Times — and 145 people had been rescued.

The BBC, which added that 31 children were believed to have been on board, quoted Zanzibar's Transport Minister Hamad Masoud Hamad as saying: "We have so far received 24 bodies, including two Europeans."

Zanzibar, about two hours by ferry from the mainland, is a popular tourist destination.

"One foreigner, a woman, is among the dead. Thirteen other foreigners were rescued and are in hospital," Reuters quoted government spokesman Yusuf Chunda as saying. 

The BBC cited the Navy as saying the ferry — identified as the MV Skagit, traveling from Dar es Salaam on mainland Tanzania at midday local time bound for the main island of semi-autonomous Zanzibar — encountered high winds.

A safety officer with the Zanzibar Port Corp. said the vessel was overturned, bottom-up and mostly submerged, near the island of Chumbe, Reuters reported.

Rescue boats and divers were searching for survivors.

The ferry reportedly belonged to the company Seagull, which runs a number of ferries.

In September, more than 200 people died after a crowded ferry traveling between two Zanzibar islands sank in what officials described then as the worst accident in Tanzania's maritime history.

Citing Washington State Ferries, the Seattle Times reported that the Skagit — formerly a passenger-only vessel between Seattle and Vashon Island and built in 1989 — was taken out of service in 2009.

Washington State Ferries sold it to Scope Community Consultants of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, along with the MV Kalama, for $400,000 total after trying to sell each on eBay for $300,000.

The 112-foot long boats were supposed to last 25 years, meaning the Skagit was "in its final years of normal operating life," the Times wrote.

More from GlobalPost: How do journalists write about Africa?