Death of 18 on Lake Mweru saddens govt

18 people have died while 21 others have survived after a motorized wooden boat they were in capsized on Lake Mweru.

And acting Transport and Communications Minister Mutotwe Kafwaya has expressed his condolences to the families of the departed souls.

The accident occurred last Wednesday between 09:00 and 10:00 hours in Luapula Province as the boat was travelling from Nchelenge mainland to Isokwe Island.

Kafwaya confirmed the development in a statement, revealing that the accident happened as a result of overloading.

He stated that despite being warned of stormy weather on the lake, the Coxswain did not heed to the warning, but decided to sail and the boat subsequently capsized.

“It involved a motorized wooden boat carrying 39 passengers travelling from mainland Nchelenge to Isokwe Island. The boat capsized due to overloading and stormy weather that occurred on the lake. 21 people survived the accident, while 18 passengers drowned. The coxswain could not heed to the warning of the stormy weather and kept loading the passengers and cargo and decided to sail despite the bad weather. Unfortunately, the boat did not have the required number of lifesaving appliances on board that could have prevented this tragedy,” Kafwaya narrated.

He stated that government had procured three passenger vessels in its efforts to enhancing water safety for the people.

“Government is alive to challenges faced in water transport and has put in place measures to enhance water safety of our people on the waters and procured three passenger vessels; one 24-seater and two by 120 seater boats in an effort to provide safer transportation on the waters. The 24-seater is operational on Lake Bangweulu and is operated by Zambia Postal Corporations Services (ZamPost) whereas the two 120 seater passenger boats are yet to be launched in Nchelenge and Samfya,” he stated.

He further stated that in order to expedite the launch of the boats in Samfya and Nchelenge, the Ministry in collaboration with other line ministries had engaged the army to construct temporary landing jetties to operationalize the boats.

“In order to expedite the launch of the two boats in Samfya and Nchelenge, the Ministry of Transport and Communication liaised with the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure Development to engage the army to construct temporary landing jetties to operationalize the boats. This exercise is on course and route survey has been completed on Lake Bangweulu and is on-going on Lake Mweru. We are confident that working through the army and Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure, the landing jetties will be constructed in earnest to ease the suffering of people on the two lakes,” Kafwaya stated.

“In line with the decentralization policy, the Ministry of Transport and Communications has engaged the Ministry of Local Government to appoint local authorities in areas where water transport is commonly used as marine local authorizes to enforce maritime safety and regulation at local level. We are confident that the inclusion of local authorities as marine authorities will strengthen regulation and safety assurance in water transportation across the country. All boat operators are required by law to provide lifesaving vests and my Ministry will ensure that the law is enforced in full.”

He stated that the Ministry was in the process of reviewing the legal and institutional framework of the Department of Marine and Inland Waterways.

“Going forward, the Ministry of Transport and Communications remains focused at setting policy and regulation and will timely capacitate staff in local authorities. The Ministry is also reviewing the legal and institutional framework of the Department of Maritime and Inland Waterways, which is responsible for the development, regulation, enforcement and registration of boat operators as well as the provision of oversight supervision to the sub-sector,” stated Kafwaya.

And Kafwaya expressed his condolences to the families of the departed souls.

         

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