Assistant police commissioner Mussa Ali Mussa, the head of police in Zanzibar, said today that at least 240 people died when the ferry sank early yesterday. His comments were broadcast by state-owned channel TBC.
Relatives had claimed 192 bodies and 28 more were awaiting identification today, said Mohammed Aboud Mohammed, the minister for state in the vice president''s office on the island of Zanzibar. He said around 600 people had been rescued so far and that the government was still looking for the vessel''s captain.
"The government is holding the chief engineer for questioning in order to gather details," said Mohammed. "The captain of the ferry is still missing and the government doesn''t know precisely the owner of the ferry." Survivors said the MV Spice Islanders, which sank near the tourist destination of Zanzibar, was well beyond its official capacity of 600 passengers. Many residents angrily asked why the boat had been allowed to leave port so overloaded.
The bodies were taken to a sports field, where imams said prayers and the bodies were washed and wrapped in white according to Islamic custom. The government is paying for all funeral costs, Mohammed said.
Weeping families walked among them looking for their loved ones, falling into each others'' arms if they recognised a relative or neighbour. Most of the corpses were wrapped in cloth with a photo of the face placed on the front. Some of the ship''s passengers were mutilated when cargo fell on top of them when the boat began to list.