•Some of these families have been forced to resign to fate and accept that their loved ones are dead and gone.
•However, for many others, being unable to see their bodies speak hope into their hearts and they hold onto a glimmer that their loved ones are alive and safe somewhere.
Many families of drowning victims in Lamu will never know closure or give their loved ones befitting sendoffs as their bodies have never been recovered.
When a boat accident happens at sea, divers do their best to either save lives or help recover the bodies of the deceased and give them to families for burial.
However, not every single body that disappears at sea is normally found, leaving families with many unanswered questions and sadness of never being able to see their loved ones for the last time and bury them.
While the pain of losing a loved one is immeasurable, even worse is the pain of knowing that the body of a loved one is lying somewhere deep under the Indian Ocean or has been washed far off by the tides and is slowly decomposing.
Some of these families have been forced to resign to fate and accept that their loved ones are dead and gone.
However, for many others, being unable to see their bodies speak hope into their hearts and they hold onto a glimmer that their loved ones are alive and safe somewhere.
Last week, the Kenya Maritime Authority said Lamu recorded the highest number of marine deaths in the entire coastal region this year.
According to the report, 11 people died in boat accidents on various dates on the Indian Ocean between January and December while another 166 were rescued from death by responders that included teams from the KMA, the county disaster rescue unit and local divers.
Ahmed Walladi, 64, lost his son Omar Walladi,30, in a boat accident in June last year but his body was never recovered.
“We knew he had drowned but they gave up on searching for him. It was so painful. I get nightmares just imagining that he is lying somewhere rotting away when I could have buried him properly. The stress was too much for his mother and she died. That was our only son,” Walladi said.
In August 2018, four fishermen set out for the high seas in Kiwayu and Ndau islands for their usual fishing expeditions but, their boat hit a coral reef and capsized due to rough tides at sea, the four were thrown into the Indian Ocean waters.
Only one fisherman, Omar Shali survived by enduring endless hours of swimming while his three companions Athman Gogo, Lali Shali and Huri Kale Shebwana were declared dead by drowning by the search and rescue team.
A week-long search for their bodies was called off after the divers failed to locate the bodies with the divers saying they believed the bodies could have been washed downstream and out of Lamu waters and possibly into Somalia, Yemen or Saudi Arabian waters.
It's been close to four years and their families still feel they were failed by the search teams who they feel should have kept searching for the bodies.
“I don’t sleep well because I have no peace. He comes to my dreams crying but I can't help him, If I knew where his body is, I would find him and bury him,” Lali Shali’s brother Omar Lali said.
The families want the government to intervene and help them locate the bodies of their loved ones for burial.
Kale Shebwana’s mother Umi Shebwana is a tormented woman and says she no longer finds life interesting after her only son drowned and his body never found.
She feels the search was called off too early and that there wasn’t much effort by the county and national government to help the family cope with the outcome of not finding his body.
“People die and are buried but my son died and they left him out there to rot away like he didn’t mean anything. That was my child and my heart aches every day,” Umi said.
These families have accused both governments of playing double standards when it comes to dealing with marine accidents in the region.
They cited the incident where a car plunged into the Indian ocean at the Likoni ferry killing a mother and her daughter and how it was publicised with government spokesperson Cyrus Oguna issuing daily televised updates at the scene until the bodies were retrieved.
“We saw the prominence it received and efforts made to recover the bodies, however complicated it was they managed. My question is, what's so different with the victims of drowning in Lamu? Why don’t we see such effort?” Abdullahi Mohamed whose nephew Saleh Mohamed drowned in 2019 said.
The worst ever marine accident in Lamu's history was that of August 13, 2017, when a boat carrying ODM politician Shekue Kahale and 11 of his family members capsized at the Manda Bruno area due to rough tides.
He lost his four young children aged between 9 months to 11 years, his wife, sister, nephews and nieces.
Only the politician survived.
However, only seven bodies were recovered.
Four bodies including those of his two children and nephews have never been found.
Edited by Kiilu Damaris