January 2, 2012
Nairobi - At least seven people died and many more were feared missing after a boat carrying dozens of passengers hit another vessel and capsized off the Kenyan island of Lamu on Sunday evening, the Kenya Red Cross said.
Nelly Muluka-Oluoch, a Kenya Red Cross spokesperson said 20 survivors had been found so far and the boat may have been carrying up to 80 passengers. She said rescue teams were searching for more survivors into the night.
The boat was taking people from Lamu Island to the nearby mainland when it hit the other vessel.
A Lamu resident at the hospital on Lamu Island said 13 passengers, including five children, had been admitted for treatment after being pulled from the water.
He said the small ferries typically take up to about 50 passengers from the island to the mainland, but survivors said the boat was overloaded with people and baggage.
Officials in Lamu said they were still trying to determine the exact number of passengers and how many people had managed to make it to shore but did not yet have precise figures.
Kenyans flock to the Indian Ocean coast over Christmas and New Year for holidays and Lamu is a popular tourist destination.
Muluka-Oluoch said Red Cross teams in Lamu also said the small ferry was overloaded.
"The boat was carrying 80 people. So far seven bodies have been taken to the mortuary and there are 20 survivors so far," she said.
Overloading was blamed for another ferry disaster off the Indian an coast in neighbouring Tanzania in September. More than 200 people died when the MV Spice Islander sank as it sailed from Zanzibar to Pemba island.
Comment: This is sad news. I used the ferries described in the article between the mainland and Lamu Island - everybody does.
The vast majority are old and dilapidated.
This news story made me remember my small misadventure on a small boat in Lamu with Korir and a few other colleagues.
We were lucky to escape unscathed - just drenched and late for a scheduled town hall meeting.
I miss Lamu and my heart goes out to the victims of the boat accident. They really need to clamp down on the boat operators and make travel between the Islands much safer.
**An aside: today marks exactly a year since I posted the Lamu boat misadventure - must mean something, no?
Oh, and I wonder what Aasia's 2012 resolutions look like ;0)