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Lake Malawi boat tragedy: 19 rescued, 6 missing

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As we went to press, six people were still missing on Lake Malawi while 19 others were rescued after a boat they were travelling in capsized on Friday.

Clinging on to their bags and cartons of Usipa, according to reports, most of the passengers and crew members were found floating alive by a search team from the Police Marine Department and fishermen from Uchizi fishing camp.

The boat, MV Ubale, was coming from Chizumulu Island to Nkhata Bay District with about 25 people on board. National Police Deputy Public Relations Officer, Harry Namwaza said the boat sunk after two of its engines started malfunctioning about an hour after embarking on the journey to Nkhata Bay.

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Heavy flow of water buffeted the boat, according to reports. It sunk and it is yet to be found.

Namwaza said 17 people were treated as outpatients while two were still receiving medication at Nkhata Bay District Hospital as of yesterday.

“As I am speaking now the team is still on the lake searching for the other six. The 19 were taken to Nkhata Bay hospital where they were examined and necessary treatment was given to them as some had injuries.

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“It is alleged that while the boat was in sail, two of its engines developed faults which caused the boat to sink. Meanwhile, we are still investigating the capacity of the boat because we have to ascertain whether it was really engine failure or maybe it exceeded its carrying capacity,” he said.

Director of Marine Services in the Ministry of Transport and Public Infrastructure Captain John Mhango said the boat was registered as cargo carrier.

This means even if the boat had lifesaving vests, they could not be enough because they are given to crew members.

Ironically, according to Mhango, this is one of the boats that has been used to rescue people in times of accidents like the one in question.

“This is a boat that was registered to carry cargo and its crew and it is their habit to carry passengers illegally. Now when they experience such as mishap it is difficult to save them because they do not have sufficient life jackets,” he said.

Mhango added that the boat had several breakdowns along the way and the idea was to dock at a nearest shore to rectify the problem, when the accident happened.

“When you are in such a predicament you start to throw away the goods you have on board in the water to free the boat, but it seems there were disagreements, the people did not want to lose their cargo,” he said.

The boat capsized at Chilambe area about an hour after departing Chizumulu.

Apart from Ilala, the biggest ship on Lake Malawi, boats are the common mode of transport on the vast calendar lake.

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