Death toll rises to 31 in Tanzania ferry accident

Stormy conditions hampered rescue efforts Thursday for a capsized ferry off Tanzania's coast, as officials said the death toll had risen to at least 31.

The government said that more than 100 passengers were still missing one day after the MV Skagit capsized.

The Red Cross said at least 146 people were rescued after the accident. The MV Skagit left Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital of Tanzania, on Wednesday en route to the island of Zanzibar.

One accident survivor, Rashid Mohamed, said that heavy winds caused the boat to lose control and flip over just a few kilometers (miles) short of Zanzibar's main port.

"Heavy winds blew from every side," Mohamed, 24, said. "The boat swayed many times before flipping over."

Passengers said the ferry was overloaded. The Red Cross said the ferry was certified to carry 250 people but may have been carrying more than 280.

Stormy weather hampered rescue efforts. Family members thronged the port for news on missing loved ones.

Washington state officials sold the Skagit to a Canadian company in 2011 as part of a two-vessel sale totaling $400,000, and those ferries were scheduled to be transported by cargo ship to Tanzania. The Skagit was built in 1989 and had been inactive since 2009 after the state ended its passenger-only service.

The ship had a maximum passenger capacity of 250, according to Washington officials. The state originally purchased the vessel for $5 million back in 1989 for use service between Seattle and Vashon Island.

An inspection on the vessels in December 2009 estimated that the Skagit was worth about $900,000.

Last September, more than 200 people were killed when a crowded ferry traveling between two islands of Zanzibar sank.


Associated Press writers Sukhdev Chhatbar in Arusha, Tanzania, and Mike Baker in Olympia, Washington, contributed to this report.