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Seven Comorians die in Indian Ocean

Seven Comoro Islands nationals reportedly died while eight others were rescued by Kenya Navy officers off the Watamu beaches afternoon after their vessel developed mechanical problems in the high seas.

Reports indicate that the members of one family suffered a 22-day ordeal in the Indian Ocean after the engine of the boat they were aboard failed hence the vessel was being tossed about in sea.

Kenyan fishermen spotted the foreigners’ small boat floating with the lives of those aboard precariously in danger and immediately alerted Kenya Navy soldiers who rushed to the aliens’ rescue.

The soldiers took the eight survivors and rushed them to a dispensary in Watamu before taking them to the Malindi Sub County Hospital where a team of doctors from the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) attended to them with the help of health personnel at the health facility.

The hospital administration set aside a room for the survivors to be treated after it turned out that they (Comoros nationals) had not had food for about three weeks and that they only depended on water.

Watamu locals donated clothes to cover the half-naked survivors. They also provided water to them as they had been severely dehydrated and could barely talk. Only one was able to talk, but in his native language and a little French and a translator had to be sought.

Journalists found KDF officers busy attending to the critically ill and fatigued foreigners. The survivors looked frail and exhausted and they had to be fed with water and milk as the KDF medical team treated them.

Through a translator, one of the victims said the 15 seafarers, who included two women, were sailing from Ndzuwani Island to Manyotte Island, a journey that would have taken them just one day.

He said while on their journey in the high seas, the vessel’s engine developed mechanical problems, but as they were sorting out the matter, a strong wave hit it, thus complicating the situation.

It was not immediately possible to get a comment from the KDF personnel, but a report from the Kenya Coast Guards indicated that KCG officials in Ngomeni received a message through the Watamu Beach Management Unit Chairman Osman Mwambire concerning the incident.

According to the report, Mwambire told the KCG officials that at about 8.00 am Monday, he had received a report from fishermen who had come across a floating boat without an engine, and that the boat had eight occupants.

The KCG report filed by Senior Sergeant Duncan Achiki to the Headquarters said the boat was towed to the Watamu MBU and eight unconscious passengers rushed to the Malindi Sub County Hospital.

“It was established that the boat was transporting 15 family members from one Island to another at Comoros Islands and it was swept by strong winds. The engine dropped into the sea and they were swept to the Kenyan waters. In the process seven passengers died and they were thrown into the sea hence eight male persons survived,” said the report.

Speaking to journalists at the hospital, Mr Nassir Abubakar Ali, a resident of Majengo in Malindi town, said he had been contacted by the Kenya Navy soldiers to provide translation services as the rescued Comoros could only communicate in their native language.

“During my discourse with them, I established that seven Comoros died in the sea after the vessel got lost after it was hit by the strong waves,” he said.  According to the translator, the victims who died while aboard the boat were thrown into the sea to reduce the weight.

“Unfortunately, seven of them died and eight remained alive, Navy officials called me to assist in translating and we have cooperated well with them including getting us contacts to call their relatives in Comoros and France,” he said.

Medical personnel from Malindi Sub County hospital are expected to brief the media about the progress of the rescued Comoros sailors and how they are responding to treatment.

By Emmanuel Masha

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