, LAMU, Kenya, Jan 2 – Eight people perished last night after two boats collided near Lamu Island.
This was after the NV Safina ferry carrying 80 people on board capsized after hitting another one with oil barrels as it was leaving the island for the mainland at around 8.15PM.
Lamu chief Majid Hussein told Capital News that rescuers found 20 survivors from the boat which was carrying up to 80 passengers.
“We had deep sea divers from Kizingitini led by the retired Major Gen Seif Sheyumbe from the Kenya Navy. They searched the area where the incident occurred and they managed to rescue 20 people and the entire luggage that had sunk,” he said.
Sheyumbe said the search is now over and that the eight bodies have been taken to the mortuary.
“The search began at 2.00AM and ended this morning at around 8.00Am. We have done all we can and are sure that there is no one else missing. The search is over and at this moment, we are preparing to salvage the boat which had capsized,” he stated.
He added that the passenger ferry which has a capacity of 50 people had been overloaded which might have contributed to the incident.
“Small ferries typically take up to about 50 passengers from the island to the mainland where they get buses for onward travel. As Kenyans flock to the Indian Ocean coast over Christmas and New Year for holidays and Lamu is a popular tourist destination and the huge number of people may have contributed to the sinking of the ferry,” he said.
Regional Police Boss Aggrey Adoli pointed out that 12 people have been taken to hospital where they are recovering after the incident.
“We have retrieved the bodies of eight people who drowned, and are continuing the search today, in case there are more,” he said.
Adoli said that most of the people on the boat managed to swim to safety but since there was no official passenger list, it was not certain whether everyone was accounted for.
“We are hoping that some people managed to swim to the shore, and they then made their own way by bus, but since there are no official manifest lists of passengers for a boat such as this we continue to search,” Adoli said.
The Kenya Red Cross Society says it is currently conducting search and rescue interventions, tracing and property recovery in conjunction with the police.
According to the Public Relations and Communications Manager Fredrick Gori, a psychosocial counseling and information desk set up to help those involved in the incident to come to terms with the tragedy.
“A search and rescue operation by the Kenya Red Cross rescue teams is still underway. The team has been joined by the Kenya Red Cross Mombasa and Malindi Branches,” Gori said.
Lamu had been holding a festival as part of traditional New Year celebrations, including boat races, and the island was crowded with tourists.