MPs call for safety measures in lake transport as death toll rises

From left, Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo, Kabondo Kasipul MP Eve Obara and Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma speak to families of people who perished in the Lake Victoria boat tragedy at Pier Beach. (James Omoro, Standard)

The death toll in the Lake Victoria boat accident has risen to nine as MPs from Nyanza called on the Government to boost safety measures in water transport.

On Thursday, the body of a man was recovered near Pier Beach in Homa Bay town, where the incident occurred on Tuesday evening.

Eight people were rescued and taken to Homa Bay County Referral Hospital. Six were discharged, and the two are still recuperating.

The search operation is being undertaken by the Kenya Red Cross Society, Kenya Coast Guard Service, Kenya Maritime Authority and fishermen operating in Lake Victoria.

The accident involved a boat that was carrying 19 passengers. It was travelling from Homa Bay town to Ndhuru Beach in the neighbouring Suba North Constituency.

On Thursday, Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma, Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo and their Kabondo Kasipul counterpart Eve Obara toured the accident scene.

The MPs said they would petition the National Government to enhance safety at the lake. They also called for rescue operation centres to be put up at the lake. Kaluma argued that the centres will enhance the speed of saving lives in case of a tragedy.

“Suppose we had such a centre here, we would have rescued more people,” Kaluma said.

The MP expressed concerns over the shortage of rescue boats in Lake Victoria.

On her part, Odhiambo said safety rules should be implemented in water transport, the same way they are applied on land and in air.

She argued that lapses in water transport had lead to many deaths in the region. “It is unfortunate many life-saving jackets were found floating in the lake, yet people were dying because they did not put them on. Safety measures should be enforced,” she said.

She said they are going to push the national assembly budget committee to put more funds on Lake Victoria transport to boost the safety of the lake users.

According to Odhiambo, there is a need for a manifest that shows the number of people who boarded the vessel. “We are relying on survivors to tell us the number of people who boarded the boat. There is a need for the Government to create orderliness in lake transport,” she said.

Earlier, Homa Bay Deputy Governor Hamilton Orata called for investigations to reveal the cause of the accident.

“The investigations will enable us to know exactly what happened and how to prevent such incidents in future,” he said. 

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