Likoni tragedy reflection of disaster preparedness
Kenyans are still reeling in shock over the heart-rending incident in which a Mombasa businesswoman and her four-year-old daughter perished at the Likoni Channel after her car slipped of the ferry.
Initial reports said her car was the last to get aboard the ferry and that she and her daughter remained inside.
If indeed this is the correct position, it points to laxity lax and lethargy by ferry management to enforce security measures.
One would have expected the ill-fated car to be secured, either with the ramps or chain, both of which were not done.
In case of any oversight, the car would naturally slide off the ferry to the sea and this, apparently, is what happened.
What defies all understanding is the fact that people watched as the car sank slowly, which means had there been any emergency rescue services on standby, as should be the case, perhaps mother and daughter could have been saved.
It is frightening that a ferry that facilitates movement for more than 300,000 people and 6,000 vehicles daily would lack emergency services to avert tragedies as witnessed in the incident.
To its credit, the Kenya Maritime Authority yesterday suspended operations at the ferry, though belated, as it emerged the four ferries at Likoni were neither seaworthy, nor insured. It can not get worse than this!
In the odd event that such tragic incidents occur, what precisely is the recourse of ferry management? What are they supposed to do? Lament absence of facilities?
The Kenya Ferry Service has been in operation for eons. Have they just learnt that the section the ferry operates on is 60 metres deep and in case of anything, specialised personnel would be required?
Yesterday, search and rescue teams from the Kenya Navy, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, Kenya Ports authority and private contracted divers located the vehicle wreckage. The recovery exercise got underway.
It is regrettable that this was happening over 36 hours after the incident. The inaction and ill-preparedness drew anger among Kenyans.
Broadly, the incident focuses attention on the sad state of affairs of the country’s disaster preparedness.
It is an area that must be looked at as an emergency itself, since it will impact on how we handle such situations in future. When human life is at stake, nothing should be left to chance to ensure safety.