At least seven missing in Zanzibar boat capsize

At least seven people are missing after a boat capsized off the Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar on Thursday, police said.

"The boat was heading towards Nungwi port in Zanzibar from mainland Tanzania when it was hit by strong waves and capsized. At least seven people, including three children remain unaccounted for," Zanzibar's regional police commissioner Ahmad Khamis told AFP.

He said 25 people were rescued and taken to hospital and that five were in critical condition.

"Seven are still missing, presumed dead," said Zanzibar Maritime Authority director Abdi Khamis Maalim. "The search for them continues in rough seas."

Police say the MV Sunrise, a ship registered in 2010 and authorised to carry only cargo, set sail despite warnings of poor weather from the meteorological department.

"We suspect the strong winds were the cause of the accident since the meteorology department had warned of bad weather," Ahmad Khamis said.

In July last year, about 144 people were presumed dead when the MV Skagit, sank in choppy waters as it crossed from mainland Tanzania to Zanzibar. The rest of the 290 on board were rescued.

The owner of the boat, the company manager and the captain were charged with manslaughter and the then marine transport minister Hamad Masoud Hamad resigned.

Thursday's accident occurred just days after Zanzibar's parliament approved new laws aimed at improving maritime safety in the archipelago.

In another incident, more than 200 people perished when the MV Spice Islander, which the authorities admitted was overloaded, sank while sailing between two islands in the Zanzibar archipelago in September 2011.