Former woman MP Shakilla Abdalla calls for formation of marine disaster unit

Former Lamu women representative Shakila Abdalla at a past media briefing PHOTO COURTESY

Lamu, KENYA: Former Lamu women rep Shakilla Abdalla has challenged the county government of Lamu together with the Kenya Maritime and the Kenya Ports Authorities to form an active disaster unit capable of effectively handling marine disaster whenever they occur.

Shakilla said the lack of such a unit in Lamu has cost the lives of many whenever accidents occur at sea that would have otherwise been avoided or reduced had there been a disaster unit to promptly respond.

Speaking in Lamu on Monday, Shakilla faulted the national government for failing to equip the KMA and KPA offices in Lamu with adequate infrastructure to be able to counter marine disasters.

Last week, the county government of Lamu called off a week-long search after they failed to locate the bodies of three fishermen who went missing at sea after their boat capsized in the Indian Ocean at Kiwayu area in Lamu East.

There are families who have to live with the reality that their loved ones will never get the befitting burials they all deserved.

Only one fisherman survived the accident having had to swim for hours to safety.

Local divers who took part in the tedious and dangerous exercise said they couldn’t effectively comb some parts of the Indian Ocean due to rough tides since they didn’t have stronger boats, equipment and professional divers who would have been able to do more.

Shakilla says owing to the history of marine accidents in Lamu, there was the need for the region to have enough rescue boats tasked with patrolling the open seas where most of the accidents occur so as to be able to promptly tackle any accidents and save survivors.

“Its unimaginable that Lamu with the kind of history we’ve had with marine accidents, we still have no single fully capable rescue unit or even the infrastructure that come with it. That’s why people continue to die at sea yet some deaths could have been averted had we had such a team in place. There is the need for Lamu to have a clear disaster response plan. There have been so many promises by the county and national government but neither side seems genuine,” said Shakilla.

During his swearing-in ceremony in August 2017,Lamu governor Fahim Twaha pledged that his administration would ensure marine safety and also promised to purchase rescue boats.

Common hotspots known for marine accidents in the Indian Ocean in Lamu are Manda Bruno channel,Mkanda channel,Kiwayu, Ndau and the Mlango wa Tanu channel in Mkokoni.

“A good number of these patrol rescue boats should hand around the hotspots daily, that’s where many people die. We will save many that way,” she added.

On many occasion, fishermen and other seafarers involved in marine accidents have to fight it out on their own to either survive or perish helplessly.

The worst marine accident in the history of Lamu was in 2017 when ODM politician Shekue Kahale lost 11 relatives in a boat accident among them his four young children aged between 9 and 1 and his wife.

Only the politician survived to have to swim for hours to an isolated island where he was discovered a day later by the rescue team.

On June 20 last year,10 people died after a dhow they had boarded capsized at the notorious Mkanda channel.

On the lucky side, on October 9 last year, four people who had been reported missing at sea were found alive and well after an extensive search mounted by the Red Cross Lamu and the Kenya Maritime Authority-KMA.

The four had spent a nightmarish night on the lonely Indian Ocean waters after their boat was overpowered by rough tides at the Manda Bruno channel sweeping the vessel all the way to Dodori where they were discovered.