PS to coordinate recovery of Likoni ferry victims bodies

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019 00:00 |
Passengers embark from a ferry at the Lokoni Crossing Channel last month. PD/NDEGWA GATHUNGU. Photo/PD/NDEGWA GATHUNGU

The government has dispatched Transport Principal Secretary Esther Koimett to coordinate the recovery operations in the search for bodies Mariam Kighenda and her daughter Amanda Mutheu who were aboard a vehicle that plunged into the Indian Ocean last Sunday.

This is as engineers from Chinese firm handling the Kipevu Oil Terminal project brought in their underwater cameras and scanned through the dark, sandy underwater.

Koimett told the media last evening that  there were no positive results in five of the spots which were earlier suspected to be possible locations for the vehicle’s wreckage.

She disclosed that the government has set up a command centre to coordinate and share information with the public even as anger and despair among family,  friends and Kenyans at large continued to mount at the recovery scene.

“The government is committed to the recovery exercise, we want to retrieve the bodies and the vehicle wreckage as soon as possible,” she said.

Koimett said powerful ocean currents coupled with poor visibility beneath the ocean was hindering the search operation. 

“Underwater search is not an ordinary operation. There is darkness beneath the waters, the current is strong, the terrain below is also hilly and there are also valleys... At the same time this channel is busy and there the water is rough. So the exercise is a tricky one,” she said.

And last evening, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho offered Sh2 million to fly in two deep sea diving specialists from South Africa to help in the recovery exercise.

The money was handed over to the widower, John Wambua, who then handed it to officials of Subsea Services to hire the divers.

“We have been following up on the salvage operations. Our team has been part of it since the beginning and we have seen there is a challenge, let us look for a concrete solution,” Joho said when he condoled with family members at the scene.

Earlier, government spokesman Col (Rtd) Cyrus Oguna said that the recovery exercise is delicate and could take more time. 

“Aerial photos taken on plane detected metals in 14 possible areas where we were expecting to find the bodies plus the wreckage. However, there was nothing found in five of the locations. We have therefore narrowed down the search to a smaller area of nine locations where we believe the bodies could be located,” he said. 

This, however, is a contradiction to Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) managing director Bakari Gowa who on Tuesday reported that the bodies and the wreckage had been located at two points underwater. 

Gowa said the bodies and wreckage had been detected in two spots at 75 feet and 173 feet which were the search focus. 

The search mission is being conducted by a team of divers and spotters from Kenya Navy, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, Kenya Ports Authority as well as local divers hired by the bereaved family.

But yesterday tension rocked the search mission after government authorities ordered privately commissioned divers-Kenya Rescue Divers under Musa Sila- to withdraw from the search for unknown reasons.  

This is after the private divers hired by the family told media they had not located the car nor the bodies. 

However, KFS chairman Dan Mwazo intervened to allow the divers continue the mission. 

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