IMPROVING SAFETY

Lawmakers tour Homa Bay to assess disaster preparedness

Parliamentary team says it had received proposals on ways to mitigate future accidents in the lakes

In Summary

•The committee heard that the major challenge facing lake transport in the region was the lack of resources.

•The committee had resolved to present a proposal to parliament that would see the acquisition of boats for the various departments to assist in patrols and rescue missions.

The Parliamentary Committee on National Administration and Security, Friday met with various stakeholders to assess disaster preparedness in Homa Bay after a boat accident last month.

Teso North MP Edward Oku Kaunya, who represented the committee chairperson Peter Mwathi, said they had received proposals to be presented to the National Assembly for deliberations on ways to mitigate future accidents in the lake.

The meeting brought together officials from the Kenya Maritime Authority, Kenya Coast Guard Services, Border Patrol, County Disaster Management Unit and County Security Committee led by the county commissioner Moses Lilan.

The committee heard that the major challenge facing lake transport in the region was the lack of resources.

Kaunya said the committee had resolved to present a proposal to parliament that would see the acquisition of boats for the various departments to assist in patrols and rescue missions.

“Last month’s tragic event points out the urgency to acquire boats for the rescue agencies in the region. We were able to achieve 100 per cent recovery because of the effort of the local boat operators,”  the MP said.

Kenya Maritime Authority regional inspector Jeremiah Onyango announced the agency’s plan to put up five search and rescue stations around the lake region to ease rescue and recovery operations. 

“They will be based in Mbita, Siaya, Busia, Migori, and a bigger command centre in Kisumu and will operate for 24 hours to help mitigate future disasters,” Onyango said.

The inspector said KMA had embarked on a rollout of plate numbers for all boats operating within the lake as well as registration of ownership saying the department was committed to ensuring the safety of all passengers and boat operators.

The area MP Peter Kaluma who was also present expressed optimism that parliament would enact the recommendations to improve lake transport.

He said the revival of lake transport in the country was among the top priorities of President Uhuru Kenyatta starting from the repair of all ports surrounding Lake Victoria and trimming of the water hyacinth.

Kaluma however asked residents to take safety measures including the use of life jackets and guard against attacks from animals such as crocodiles and hippos.

The county commissioner said the police urgently required a patrol boat to assist in rescue operations and deal with the influx of contraband from the neighbouring countries.

He warned that any boat operator venturing into the lake without the requisite training and licensing risked being arrested.

Lilan also cautioned against overloading of vessels in the lake saying the boat that capsized last month with 10 fatalities was overloaded.

Other members of the parliamentary team present were Suna West MP Peter Masara, Nyakach MP Aduma Owuor and Kisumu Woman Representative Rosa Buyu.

 

Edited by Kiilu Damaris