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Panic as Likoni ferry stalls midstream

COUNTIES
By Stanley Mwahanga | May 18th 2015

 

Several passengers were forced to jump into the ocean and swim to the shore on Saturday after a ferry they were using stalled.

No deaths were reported in the frightening experience, which some passengers described as the worst mishap at Likoni Channel since the 1994 ferry disaster.

The ferry, Mv Kwale, with about 1,000 passengers drifted for over a kilometre before it hit a coral reef, creating panic among passengers, some of whom decided to dive into the shark-infested channel.

The incident led to a huge snarl-up along the busy channel that connects Mombasa Island to South Coast.

Several passengers jumped into the ocean in fright and swam to the shore on Saturday evening when a ferry they were using to cross the Likoni channel stalled, drifted into the open sea and hit a coral reef.

The ferry, Mv Kwale, drifted for over a kilometre before it hit a coral reef, creating panic among passengers some of whom decided to dive into the shark-infested channel.

Several people sustained injuries from the impact of hitting the rock and some were admitted at the Coast General Hospital.

The ferry stalled with about 1,000 passengers and came to rest opposite the Florida Night Club in Mombasa’s Mama Ngina Drive.

No death was reported but two women – Ms Mwanakombo Ali, 22, and Rebecca Paul, 26 – were rushed to hospital for treatment after sustaining bruises.

Passengers termed the incident as the “worst mishap at the Likoni channel” since the April 29, 1994, Mtongwe ferry disaster.

“I’ve crossed this channel for many years and had problems with the ferries but this is the worst incidence I’ve ever witnessed,” said Ali Kenga, one of the passengers.

The incident led to a huge snarl-up along the busy channel that connects Mombasa Island and South Coast.

Stranded commuters had to wait for close to four hours before a rescue team from Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) arrived at the scene.

Mombasa Deputy County Commissioner Salim Mahmoud said yesterday that officers from the Kenya Ferry Services, the Navy and other officials helped to secure the vessel.

Yesterday, KFS Kenya Ferry Services Managing Director Musa Hassan Musa did not disclose what caused the ferry to stall but reports within the maritime sector suggest Mv Kwale stalled due to loss of power in one of the generators that power the vessel’s engines.

“Normalcy has resumed at the channel after the ferry was re-floated from the huge tides,” said Musa who disclosed that the rescue of the ferry took long because of the shallow waters in which it had hit the rock.

He said engineers had to wait for the tide to rise to re-float the vessel because lifting it out on shallow waters could have damaged the ferry’s propellers.

Mv Kwale is one of the new ferry which was procured by the Government in 2010 alongside Mv Likoni and has a capacity for 1,500 passengers and 60 vehicles.

For more than three hours, panic stricken passengers wearing life jackets were forced to wait to be rescued before Mv Kilindini, a naval vessel was deployed to save them.

Two tugboats from the Kenya Ports Authority were called in to help in towing the vessels but they had to wait for hours before they could moor the vessels together with some vehicles to safety due to low tides which some engineers claimed could damage the tag boat propellers.

“They have told us to disembark from here because there is no way that the ferry can be moored back to the channel as the tides are too low,” John Maingi said.

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