Twelve people have died after a Tanzanian boat MV Mapenza they were travelling in developed a fault and capsized on Lake Malawi during the morning hours of Saturday, marine authorities have confirmed.
Assistant Surveyor of vessels for Nkhatabay and Likoma Districts Chikumbutso Ziyaya said in a telephone interview on Sunday that the vessel, which also carried assorted cargo, left Tanzania’s Mpamba-Bay around 14:00 hours East African Time.
When it neared Nkhatabay, it developed a fault on an out-let pump which is meant to drain water.
Ziyaya said the faulty pump and Mwera winds made it difficult for the sailors to control the machine.
“They started communicating with colleagues offshore at around 3 am, by then the boat had started sinking and was filled with water due to the failed pump, unfortunately, due to lack of resources people could not respond in time such that
a rescue team left Nkhatabay about two hours later,” said Ziyaya.
One of the rescuers Shadreck Mpata, who was in contact with one of the passengers only known as Ramso and now deceased, said their rescue mission ended prematurely due to bad weather.
“I first got a call in the wee hours from Ramso that they were in danger and they needed help, then I set off to borrow an engine boat from police because mine had a problem. With a few others we embarked on a journey of following them up,” Mpata explained.
“At exactly eight o’clock in the morning Ramso called me again, telling me it was his last call because the boat had completely sunk and there was no chance of survival. And indeed that was the last time we talked. We sailed on but gave up after about four hours due to strong winds,” he added.
Reports indicate that MV Mapenza had been stuck at Mpamba-bay for about a week due to the prevailing Mwera winds on Lake Malawi whose waves and tides can obscure visibility among other things.
“I understand the boat was sub-contracted by business tycoons in Nkhatabay to carry goods for sale, they were impatient and thus forced the transporter to depart before verifying if the weather pattern had improved,” said Mpata.
According to Mpata out of the 12 deceased individuals only 10 have been identified.
However, Nkhatabay police spokesperson Ignatius Esau says they are not yet certain about the number because Tanzanian authorities are yet to confirm.
He said: “There are conflicting reports on the kind of goods and number of people that were on board, so we are in constant touch with our friends in Tanzania.”
Meanwhile, a speed boat has been deployed by the marine department of the East African country to help with the search for remains of the 60-tonne boat and dead bodies.
The Daily Times has so far learnt that bags of plastic sheets suspected to have been on the boat have been seen floating on the lake around Usisya in Nkhatabay
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