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240 killed as crowded ferry sinks

More than 240 people were killed when a crowded ferry sank off Tanzania's coast and some 600 have been rescued, officials said

Assistant police commissioner Mussa Ali Mussa, the head of police in Zanzibar, said at least 240 people died when the ferry sank on Saturday morning.

Relatives had claimed 192 bodies and 28 more were awaiting identification, 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 Mr 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, Mr Mohammed said.

Some of the ship's passengers were mutilated when cargo fell on top of them when the boat began to list.

International charity Save the Children said it launched an emergency response for injured and traumatised children.

The charity described the "incredible bravery" of young survivors, including one six-year-old with a lifejacket who saved his 18-month-old brother by holding on to him in the sea for four hours until they were rescued. It said another set of brothers - aged seven and nine - clung to a floating freezer to stay alive.

The charity said they had been given clothes, food and clean water and that 79 out of 129 children it has cared for have been reunited with their families. The rest are in hospital.

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