By DAILY NEWS Reporter, 27th December 2011 @ 16:00, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 3493
2011 in Tanzania will be remembered as the year of unnecessary tragedies. From bomb blasts to sinking ship the year ended with tens of people dying in our capital city Dar es Salaam. It all began in mid February just after Valentines Day and on Idd night when the celebrations were rudely interrupted by loud blasts. The night sky was alight with sparks flashes.
People in Gongo la Mboto were hit the hardest and had to flee from their homes. The reason for the bomb blasts was that ammunition from the nearby army barracks had gone off; we presume accidentally.
That night properties were destroyed. Lives were lost and children were abandoned by parents and guardians. Hospitals and the Red Cross worked round the clock treating the wounded and putting up temporary shelters for the displaced.
Once again there was no war in the country but civilians died and were wounded by military ammunition. The actual reason for the bombs going off has never been announced and a back up plan of we the 'wananchi' should do just in case it happens again; after all there is no guarantee it won't.
Fast forward to September the sinking of a ship that travelled with about 800 passengers went down in the middle of the night and left approximately 200 passengers dead. The unfortunate accident occurred off the coast of Zanzibar just after the completion of the holy month of Ramadhan.
According to the director of disaster co-ordination Red Cross in the country, Joseph said that most of the victims were women and children. The sad part is that the ferry boat MV Spice Islander was supposed to carry a maximum capacity of 600 passengers on top of a limited amount of cargo. With an excess of at least 200 people it was a disaster in waiting.
Zanzibari authorities struggled to cope and sought help from outside. Divers came in from South Africa. The survivors were ferried by privately owned fast ferries and brought back to the main harbour in the historic Stone Town, Zanzibar. A helicopter pilot who flew over the disaster area saw survivors holding on to mattresses and fridges and anything that could float.
At the end of it all four people were charged including the Captain in absentia whom we do not know whether or not he survived the accident. After the MV Bukoba tragedy in 1996 that claimed over 400 lives we would have thought that we had learnt our lesson but alas we have not.
In Dar es Salaam rounding off the year what would have been a blessing from the heavens turned out to be three days of flooding in the capital City. Roads turned into gushing muddy rivers and expansive lakes. Pictures of people sitting on their roof tops waiting for help as well as victims being rescued by the most crude means were rather touching.
Bridges fell apart and moving around the City was an endless nightmare. The floods claimed over 20 lives. The theories behind the flooding are endless. From climate change to a poor drainage system have been cited.
People residing in lowland areas were ordered to vacate although there is no reason as to why they should not be relocated before the rains commence. Throughout the year road accidents throughout the country caused numerous deaths and injuries. So what is it about us as a people that attracts accidents and catastrophes that can be avoided?
How many of us dare complain if the bus driver over speeds? We do not, but we still expect to reach our destinations in one piece by the grace of the Almighty. We need to respect limits for the sake of safety and not tip the balance for our own selfish gains. If the bus or the boat is full step aside and wait for the next one.
Talking about boats how many of us can swim? Swimming is a life saving skill that everyone is encouraged to learn. From the flooding in Dar es Salaam the water may even find you in your own bedroom. Disaster strikes when you least expect it. It does not wait for a friendly invitation.
How many of us after the flooding have been actively involved in clearing out the road side drainage? Those plastic bottles and nylon bags blocking where water should run freely are lethal. It does not harm anyone to pick up trash when they see it and dispose of it responsibly. Let us not wait for another tragedy to happen before we come out of our too comfortable slumber.
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