House of Wonders probe team given eight days to hand in report

Sunday January 03 2021
Beit
By Louis Kalumbia
By Ephrahim Bahemu

Dar es Salaam. A team of six people has been formed to investigate the partial collapse of the House of Wonders (Beit Al Ajaib) that occurred in Zanzibar on Christmas Day and has been given until January 11, this year to hand over its report.

The accident occurred as the historical building was being renovated after the Oman government gave Sh10 billion. Two people were reportedly killed and four others were wounded.

Zanzibar government, through Tourism and Antiquities minister Lela Mohamed Mussa, pledged to probe the incident. The same was also announced by Muscat.

In a statement issued after the accident, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) promised to support government of Zanzibar.

President Hussein Ali Mwinyi and the First Vice President Seif Shariff Hamad pledged to a probe team that would propose the way-forward.

Speaking to The Citizen yesterday, Minister Mussa said the investigation team commenced its responsibilities on December 31, 2020 and has been given 12 days.

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She said the team is led by Mr Ali Said Bakari from the Zanzibar Engineers Registration Board (ZERB) .

“All responsible people are questioned in order to establish the cause of the accident. All public and private institutions as well as the general public should cooperate with the team,” she urged over the phone.

Regarding investigation promised by the Muscat authorities and Unesco, she said her docket had received no new information on the matter.

“Let’s see if there will be new development by Monday (tomorrow). Currently, the incident is being probed by the government team as well as a team made of defence and security forces under the instruction of the President,” she said, adding: “Investigations by the defence and security forces focuses on security issues. Unesco who arrived two days after the calamity will concentrate on the loss and safety of tourists.”

She said the collapse of the building was a huge blow to Zanzibar’s tourism, saying the house was an icon of Stone Town and the whole Zanzibar archipelago as well as the whole East African region.

Pledging to investigate the incident, President Mwinyi said there was the need to form a probe a team into the incident in order to prevent similar future calamities and come up with better conservation methods.

He said it was the responsibility of authorities in Stone Town, including the he Stone Town Conservation and Development Authority (STCDA) and the National Housing Corporation (NHC), to act and come up with solutions.

Mr Hamad said, after visiting survivors and the accident scene, that the government will cover costs of burial of the dead and treatment of survivors. “Responsible institutions should study and review strength of all historical buildings and take immediate renovation measures for those that would be found in poor state to prevent similar incidents,” he said.

For his part, Second Vice President Hemed Suleiman Abdulla assured survivors that hospital bills would be covered by the government until they recover fully.

Mnazi Mmoja Referral Hospital acting chief medical officer Marijan Msafiri told the Second Vice President that two of the four survivors had to be examined more closely as they sustained serious leg injuries.