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January 17, 2019

Fishermen still missing week after accident

Local divers and Kenya Red Cross officials surround a scene of accident that involved two boats on Lamu Island. /FILE
Local divers and Kenya Red Cross officials surround a scene of accident that involved two boats on Lamu Island. /FILE

Divers are yet to find the bodies of three men who disappeared when their fishing boat capsized in the Indian Ocean last Thursday.

None of the four fishermen had a life jacket when the accident occured in Kiwayu area of Lamu.

One of the four men, Omar Shali, managed to swim for hours to the shore where he reported the accident to the authorities after which a search was mounted.

Those missing have been identified as Athman Gogo, Balali Shali and Huri Shebwana.

The four were on their usual fishing expedition last Thursday when accident occured.

It is thought the boat capsized upon hitting a coral reef and split before throwing all the four occupants into the ocean.

All the four fishermen hail from Kizingitini village and were heading to the high seas in Kiwayu and Ndau for work before their boat christened ‘Subira’ was overpowered by the strong winds and capsized throwing them into the deep water.

The head of the search operation is Lamu county transport manager Hajji Mahmoud. He said no body had been recovered since they launched the search.

Mahmoud said the fact the fishermen didn’t wear life jackets could have made it hard for them to swim for hours to safety.

He asked persons boarding marine vessels to equip themselves with buoyancy aids like floatable rings, life jackets and water proof phone bags to assist in case of an accident.

“If you are armed with the necessary regalia, you can help yourself whenever accidents occur. Buoyancy rings can help you stay afloat for as long as possible and can also be held onto by several people at the same time,” Mahmoud said.

He said the search has been hindered by rough tides normally witnessed in Kiwayu, the scene

 of accident.

The search team comprises staff from the Lamu county search and rescue department, Kenya Maritime Authority, marine police and local divers. They are concentrating their efforts in Kiwayu.

Mahmoud said there is little possibility of rescuing anyone alive and that the team is focusing on recovering of bodies.

“Unfortunately, the possibility of finding anyone alive at sea dwindles with each passing day. As much as we want to still hope that somehow they are still alive somewhere, technically we are just searching for the bodies,” he said.

Families of the three fishermen have requested for services of the Kenya Navy special unit.

Speaking in Lamu town on Monday, the families said they were worried that the bodies could decompose or even get lost forever if the search is not intensified.

Omar Bwana, whose brother is among those missing, said they are worried that they might not give their loved ones a decent burial.

Bwana said the families had not lost all hope that their relatives could still be alive int the sea.

“In as much as know that after all these days the chances of them being alive are slim, we still haven’t given up hope. We want the navy to come in. 

“We don’t even understand why they were not part of the exercise from the word go. If they are dead, we would like their bodies found so we can bury them and they can

 rest,” Bwana said.

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