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February 23, 2019

Search halted as team fails to locate bodies of Lamu fi shermen

Members of the search team /CHETI PRAXIDES
Members of the search team /CHETI PRAXIDES

A search for the bodies of three Lamu fishermen who drowned in the Indian Ocean has been called off.

The three were reported missing on Friday last week as they did not return after their boat capsized near Kiwayu island in Lamu East subcounty.

They hit a coral reef and their boat turned over. They were from Kizingitini village. Their boat, the Subira, was overpowered by strong winds and tides.

Athman Gogo, Balali Shali and Huri Shebwana went missing. Only one person, Omar Shali, survived. He swam for hours to safety and alerted the Kiwayu chief. 

“I only recall falling into the water. Then I didn’t see my friends. I swam for hours to the shore. I hope they are safe somewhere and that they will be found,” Shali had said.

A search for the remaining three started immediately.


One week later, divers have failed to find the bodies. They suspect they might have been swept away on the high seas. 

Calling off the search has dealt a blow to the bereaved families who wanted to give their loved ones decent burials. On Monday, the families advised that the Navy take part in the search to speed up the exercise.

 They said the search had been taking too long and the bodies were decomposing.

Lamu county government officers, a local rescue team, divers from the Kenya Maritime Authority and marine carried out the search.

Lamu deputy governor Abdulhakim Aboud, a professional diver, led the search for seven days.

Divers did their best

On Thursday, he said they had to end the search after it became apparent the bodies probably would never be found.

He said they could have either sunk deeper or had been washed out to sea.

“It’s unfortunate we haven’t found the bodies and have been forced to call off this search. It’s obvious we won’t be finding any body around here. We have done our best,” Aboud said.

Meanwhile, fishermen have been urged to be on the lookout and report unidentified bodies.

Risky site

Aboud said the county government had fuelled small boats tasked with conducting mini patrols in the ocean.

Before the search began, Lamu county commissioner Joseph Kanyiri said turbulent tidal waves in Kiwayu and nearby areas posed a danger.

He urged fishermen to stay in touch with their beach management units while at sea for the sake of prompt interventions in case of danger.

“The area where the boat capsized has very rough tides that give search teams a hard time,” Kanyiri said.

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