10 Sep 2011

Hundreds missing after ferry capsizes near Tanzania

8:59 pm on 10 September 2011

Hundreds of people are thought to be missing after a ferry sank off the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar with about 600 people on board.

About 380 people are believed to be missing, local officials say, and at least 250 are reported to have been rescued.

One survivor said the ferry, MV Spice, was heavily overloaded and sank in an area with heavy currents in deep sea between the island of Zanzibar and Pemba Island off the east African coast early on Saturday.

Some passengers had refused to board the ferry when it was leaving, a survivor reportedly told the AP news agency.

Zanzibar Police Commissioner Mussa Alli Mussa told Reuters that rescue workers with the aid of fishing boats were helping to rescue more passengers and recover bodies.

"Because of strong ocean winds, some of the bodies could even be washed up in Tanga (mainland Tanzania)," he said.

The cause of the accident is not known.

Zanzibar, also known as Unguja, and Pemba are the two main islands of the Zanzibar archipelago, a popular tourist destination.