Thursday, August 9, 2012

Zanzibar ferry disaster: hopes of finding more survivors fade

Hopes of finding more survivors were fading today following the capsizing of an overloaded passenger ferry in east Africa.

Friends and relatives check a list of names of people admitted to the Mnazi Moja hospital in Zanzibar
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Friends and relatives check a list of names of people admitted to the MnaziMmoja hospital in Zanzibar after the tragedy Photo: AFP/GETTY
Rescue boats, helicopters and divers searched for any remaining survivors but hopes were fading fast of finding anyone alive in the submerged wreck.
Zanzibar has vowed to punish those responsible for the overloading of the MV Spice islander ferry, which had more than 800 people on board. Nearly 200 perished when the vessel sank.
Mohamed Aboud Mohamed, Zanzibar minister of state, told a news conference that the death toll was 197, with 619 survivors. The ferry was loaded with over 200 more people than it was licensed to carry.
"The government will take stern measures against those found responsible for this tragedy, in accordance with the country's laws and regulations," he said. "We will not spare anyone."
The accident was the worst maritime disaster in the history of Zanzibar, Tanzania's semi-autonomous archipelago and popular tourist destination.
In 1996, a Tanzanian ferry sank on Lake Victoria with as many as 1,000 aboard. Only 114 survived.
The government charged the captain and eight officials with the murder of 615 people.
The Spice Islander began its voyage in Tanzania's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam, where it was loaded with passengers, motor vehicles, bags of food and cement and other building materials.
When it reached Zanzibar, also known as Unguja, it took on more passengers and cargo for the trip to the archipelago's smaller island of Pemba.
"According to what we've heard so far from survivors, the ship was overloaded with cargo from Dar es Salaam, which included several vehicles, cement and iron rods," Police Commissioner Mussa Alli Mussa told Reuters.
Some passengers realised they were in danger as the ferry started to tilt while still in the port and tried to get off. A few succeeded before the crew pulled up the ladders so the ship could depart.
"Preliminary investigations show the cause of the accident was overloading as the vessel passed in heavy tides," said the state minister, adding that the ship's captain was missing but the chief engineer was being questioned.
South Africa Foreign Ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said National Defence Force teams were in Tanzania helping with the rescue and Navy corvette SAS Mendi was already on its way to the east African country.
Rescue workers admit it is unlikely they will find anyone alive but expect to recover more bodies. Crowds of relatives and onlookers gathered in Stone Town on Sunday morning to await news of passengers still missing.
Zanzibar's President Ali Mohamed Shein will lead special prayers on Monday night to honour the dead at the Maisara grounds where the bodies were placed a day earlier.
Zanzibar residents said ships on the Unguja-Pemba route are notoriously overcrowded but few are inspected for safety.
"First of all, the person to be blamed is the government, the whole government of Zanzibar ... they are still not serious, they need to resign now," said Safia Juma, who lost relatives in the accident.
"I think the blame lies on the operators of the vessel, these things have tonnage limits. We know that he had overloaded the vessel from Tanzania to Zanzibar," said Zanzibar resident Ali Uledi.
Four hours after the ferry left on Friday, Abuu Masoud got a call from relatives as the ferry started to sink. They were among those who perished in the fast Indian Ocean currents.
"At around 3 a.m., they told us the vessel had tipped over and they were standing on its back waiting for assistance," said Masoud, who lost seven relatives in the accident.
"They told us there were about 25 to 30 of them who were left standing on the ship. At around 4 a.m., their phones were not reachable and we haven't seen or heard from them since."

Man who lost legs as a child scales Kilimanjaro

A man who lost both his legs as a child has become the first to scale Mount Kilimanjaro using his hands.

A man who lost both his legs as a child has become the first to scale Mount Kilimanjaro using his hands.
Spencer West’s trek to the top of Kilimanjaro raised more than £300,000 for charity Free The Children Photo: SWNS
Spencer West, 31, from Toronto, Canada, reached the summit of the 19,341ft mountain on Tuesday after trekking for seven days. He climbed most of the journey on his hands, spending only 20 per cent of the trek in a custom-made wheelchair when the terrain wasn’t as steep or rocky.
Mr West had his legs amputated below the knee when he was three-years old due to a genetic disorder – sacral agenesis. When he was five he had to have the rest of his legs removed below the pelvis.
The rare congenital disorder meant the development of his lower spine was impeded, leaving his legs permanently crossed. Doctors told him he would never be a normal functioning member of society – a judgment Mr West has challenged his entire life.
Mr West, who spent one year training for the expedition, scaled Africa’s highest peak with his two best friends David Johnson and Alex Meers. The trio began their hike on June 12, navigating through jungle, snowfield and deserts, but finally making it to the top at 11.15am on June 20.
Only 50 per cent of those who attempt the mountain usually make it to the top.

Is not fair!!!

Tanzanian children with HIV to wear red ribbon on uniforms

Schoolchildren in Tanzania are being made to wear a red ribbon on their uniforms to show that they are HIV positive.

Schoolchildren in Tanzania are being made to wear a red ribbon on their uniforms to show that they are HIV positive.
Photo: Reuters
The headmaster of one of the schools, in the northwest district of Kibaha, said the unusual move was done at the parents' request to ensure ill pupils were not made to undertake tasks that might affect their health.
But campaigners say that revealing another person's HIV status is illegal under Tanzanian law and punishable by up to three years imprisonment.
Around five per cent of the population – some 1.4m people – have HIV in Tanzania. While the rate is no higher than in most East African countries, the infection rate for women is higher than for men and it is often transmitted to children.
Mohammed Lukema, head of Kibaha Primary School, said parents had asked for their children to wear red ribbons if they were infected so they could be excused from strenuous duties at the rural school, such as sweeping the compound and fetching and carrying water.
He insisted that they were not judged as a result. "Our school has pupils who are suffering from various diseases," he told the BBC.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Warning shots fired to disperse Tunisia protest

Police on Thursday fired warning shots and tear gas to disperse a demonstration in the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, birthplace of last year's revolution, an AFP journalist reported.
One person was wounded by a rubber bullet and four others affected by the tear gas were taken to the town's hospital, an official there said, adding that none of them were in a serious condition.
The security forces began firing into the air when the protesters, who were demanding the resignation of the Islamist-led government, tried to force their way into the provincial government headquarters.
They broke through the entrance to the compound, the journalist said, but when the warning shots and tear gas were fired, the panicked crowd scattered.
A similar incident took place at the end of June, when protesters angry over their living conditions attacked the same building, hurling rocks and burning tyres, with police firing tear gas to disperse them.
Some demonstrators also broke down the door and sacked offices of the ruling Islamist party Ennahda.
Sidi Bouzid is where the uprising began that eventually toppled former dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and touched off the Arab Spring, when a street vendor immolated himself in December 2010 in protest over his own precarious livelihood.