Two people have been reported missing after a cargo dhow they were travelling in capsized at Mlango wa Pate, a few kilometres from the Manda Bruno Channel in Lamu East on Sunday. Two others were rescued.
Confirming the accident on Sunday, Lamu County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri said the dhow christened Foza was carrying building materials from the Mokowe Jetty and was headed for Pate Island when the incident happened at around 10am.
The materials were to be used in the ongoing construction of the Pate Sea Wall in Lamu East.
Mr Kanyiri said the two who were rescued were rushed to the King Fahad County Hospital.
He said search and rescue efforts for the missing two passengers are ongoing.
“It’s true. A dhow carrying four crew members and building blocks capsized past Manda Bruno Channel in Lamu East. So far two of the crew members have been rescued while two others are yet to be found. A search and rescue team comprised of the Kenya Marine Police, Kenya Maritime Authority in coordination with local divers is already on the ground making efforts to recover the remaining occupants of the ill-fated boat whose whereabouts are still unknown,” said Mr Kanyiri.
He said the dhow might have capsized due to overloading.
The Manda Bruno, Mkanda and Mlango wa Pate channels are known for strong currents and on most occasions, travellers going past the area have to wait until the tides are low or postpone their journeys until the tides subside.
Mr Kanyiri asked boat operators plying the Indian Ocean waters in Lamu to observe marine safety rules.
“There are coxswains who are used to speeding and overloading. They should avoid such acts or else we will arrest them. The season of strong winds is also beginning. I therefore appeal to those plying the Lamu Indian Ocean waters to be keen to avoid accidents. If the ocean is witnessing strong tides, then it is better to cancel your journey rather than risk traveling in such dangerous conditions,” said Mr Kanyiri.
Sources who talked to the Nation in Pate also said the dhow might have capsized due to overloading.
“The information we have is that the boat was carrying over 200 building blocks to be used for the construction of the Pate sea wall. Most mornings don’t experience strong winds and tides. Because the accident occurred in the morning, we suspect the cause is nothing else but overloading,” said Mr Suleiman Bahero, a coxswain.
Contacted, Lamu Boat Operators Association Chairman Hassan Awadh also confirmed the incident, saying search and rescue operations are already underway.
“First I was told the accident occurred at around 6am between the Mkanda channel and Manda Bruno. Someone on the ground has also told me that the accident occurred within Pate Island. So far two people have been rescued but the whereabouts of two others are unknown. Search and rescue operations are on and I will update you once I get more information,” said Mr Awadh.
Incidents of people disappearing at sea after boats capsize are not new in Lamu, with the worst being on August 13, 2017 when Lamu ODM politician Shekue Kahale lost 12 of his relatives including his wife and four children.
In June 2018, one fisherman died while three others escaped with injuries after their boat capsized at Manda Maweni in Lamu.
And still in August 2018, three fishermen went missing after their boat capsized in Ndau in Lamu West.
They have not been traced to date.