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Ship mishap reveals poor state of affairs at Kisumu Port

By Harold Odhiambo and Kevine Omollo | September 20th 2016
Volunteers carry the body of one of the two men who died inside the engine room of a Tanzanian ship at Kisumu Port. [Photo: Denish Ochieng/Standard]

The state of safety and security at the Kisumu Port is on the spot after two incidents that left three dead and two others seriously injured.

The facility is said to be in a dire state, with few employees and dilapidated equipment. Most of the ships using the port are also said to be dilapidated and lacking safety equipment on board.

Monday, area police in collaboration with fire fighters retrieved two bodies of Tanzanian men who died while attempting to siphon fuel from an oil tanker.

The incident occurred barely two weeks after three crew members of the same ship sustained serious injuries after fuel burst into flames. One of them died at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi.

Sources have now attributed the two incidents to neglect at the port, which is the focal point of lake transport between Kenya and her East African neighbours.

“The facility has had no power for the last four months and it is just a shell. It looks abandoned and if there is no intervention, then we are likely to witness more deaths and injuries,” said a casual labourer who sought anonymity.

Fire brigade

On Sunday, police were unable to retrieve the bodies of the two Tanzanians because they feared for their safety. The bodies remained in the tanker for another night as police waited for help from the fire brigade.

The bodies were retrieved about 15 hours after they were discovered. The fire brigade had a difficult time pulling the bodies out as they were stuck in the engine room, which was filled with fuel fumes.

The deceased, who were identified only as Felix and Erick, were crew members of the ill-fated ship.

Peter Kotunya, a port worker, revealed to The Standard that Felix had vowed to stop working on the ship because of the accidents they had experienced.

“After escaping death by a whisker in the fire that broke out on the same ship, he told me he would never work on a ship again,” said Mr Kotunya.

He said that the deceased had revealed to him that they were involved in another accident near Homa Bay about two months ago, when the ship was sailing to Kenya.

“He told me that they experienced a fire near Homa Bay and sustained minor injuries,” said Kotunya.

Last week, when the crew was preparing for the trip back to Tanzania, the ship burst into flames when the captain attempted to ignite the engine.

Steal oil

Three people, the captain and two crew members, were saved from the inferno by fire brigade personnel from Kisumu International Airport and taken to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital before being transferred to Nairobi.

On Saturday night, the two other crew members who survived the fire went back to the ship to steal oil from the vessel, but suffocated.

“We were alerted Monday when we couldn’t trace the three at the port. The crew members were complaining after the fire that occurred about a week ago that they did not even have fire extinguishers on the ship despite the vessel being laden with oil,” he added.

Kisumu County Commander Titus Yoma noted that police officers found five jerricans of oil that the two had already siphoned from the vessel.

Port Manager Mwalimu Disi however declined to comment on the state of the facility, saying he busy.

“Why would you want to connect the lack of electricity to the deaths that occurred? For now, let us address the deaths and discuss anything concerning the state of the port at a later date,” said Mr Disi.

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