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Search at Likoni Channel delayed as equipment yet to arrive

Wednesday October 9 2019

Kenya Navy at Likoni Channel

Kenya Navy officers at the Likoni Channel on October 8, 2019 where a mother and her daughter drowned. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

SIAGO CECE
By SIAGO CECE
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MOHAMED AHMED
By MOHAMED AHMED
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The government could be biting more than it can chew on the Likoni ferry tragedy after it emerged that only four spots have been mapped as opposed to the 14 indicated earlier.

By yesterday, the government had not deployed equipment that would help retrieve the bodies of Mariam Kighenda and her daughter Amanda Mutheu. This despite assurance on Sunday that it had acquired more tools for the task.

ECHO SOUNDER

Nation learnt that lack of equipment had forced the navy recovery team to dock at the Mbaraki wharf in the Likoni Channel on the eighth day of the operation.

Contrary to reports from government spokesman Cyrus Oguna that divers from Kenya Navy have been working on 14 possible spots, where the vehicle might be, Nation has learnt that only four coordinates had been identified.

A reliable source from a government agency involved in the operations revealed that from last Monday to Thursday, divers from Kenya Navy had been given only four mapped locations, where the teams suspected the vehicle and bodies could be lying.

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The sites had been identified by an echo sounder, an instrument used to determine the depth of water and detect objects in the sea.

GREAT RISK

“The divers had checked on two [of the locations] which gave negative results. On Thursday, they were working to see how they could get on the other two, which were a bit deeper,” Nation was told.

The mapped locations are 57 metres, 47 metres, 37 metres and 27 metres deep. By last Wednesday, the divers had gone into the 27 and 37 metre spots.

“We had hopes with the 27 metres point and that’s where the divers had spent a lot of time as it was near the spot where the vehicle plunged, but it turned out negative,” the official, who is not allowed to speak to media, said.

After the negative results, focus turned to the 57 metres spot, which is said to be posing great risk to divers as it is the deepest. “Poor visibility of the undercurrents was the main problem,” the official said.

MORE CAUTIOUS

On Sunday and Monday, the multi-agency team involved in the operations insisted that there were four possible locations after ‘exhausting the other 10’.

Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) on Sunday said the search had been directed to the “last four possible locations that were a difficult terrain requiring a more cautious approach to avoid endangering the safety of the divers”.

On Tuesday, only professional private divers hired by the family were involved in the search.

“The Navy are still waiting for the equipment to be brought later in the day. For now the family’s private divers are the ones in the water," said KFS Managing Director Bakari Gowa.

VISIBILITY

On Monday, head of the rescue team Colonel Lawrence Gituma confirmed that the equipment was not available locally, and would be brought from South Africa.

Automated equipment

Earlier, the government had said it procured an advanced system of remote operated cameras with high resolution that will ease visibility under the water.

The equipment was supposed to reduce human activities as the operation was going to depend more on the automated equipment.