The lady luck smiled on over 100 people Sunday evening after they got stranded on the middle of Lake Malawi for more than three hours as they eventually managed to safely sail to the shoreline.
The people were travelling in a privately owned engine boat from Likoma and Chizumulu Islands to Nkhata Bay Boma.
Among the stranded passengers were Likoma District Commissioner, Charles Mwawembe, and Likoma Police Officer in Charge, Grey Chipempho.
The incident comes barely two weeks after over 50 Ethiopian nationals who were crossing the lake to illegally enter Malawi drowned as the boat they were travelling in capsized in Karonga district.
According to surviving passengers and police, the boat belonging to Malungo General Dealers of Likoma, left the island district around 12pm Sunday for Nkhata Bay but it developed a fault deep in the lake after travelling for four hours.
Upon hearing the incident, President Joyce Banda reportedly directed the Malawi Defence Force and the Malawi Police to launch a rescue operation but the people managed to safely reach the lake shore on their own.
“The boat’s steering developed a technical fault and for three hours we were just stuck as the captains tried this and that to rectify the problem,” one passenger identified as Morton Pamave Phiri said Monday afternoon.
He explained: “Tension engulfed the boat, faces dropped as some passengers started praying to God for mercy. We couldn’t see the shores on both sides, it was a terrific experience but with God’s love
and compassion the skippers eventually managed to temporarily fix the problem with some small wires. We started off and sailed at a snail’s pace until we reached the shores.”
Nkhata Bay Police Spokesperson said the boat exceeded its carrying capacity and their investigations revealed that the vessel was not sea-worthy.
The passenger vessel docked at Nkhata Bay Boma just before Sunday mid night to the relief of the travelers.
Investigations have further revealed that apart from unsea-worthy, the boat also had fewer life (safety) jackets because it exceeded its carrying capacity and yet it had on board the top most law enforcer (Chimphepo) and the administrative head of the island district (Mwawembe) who could have immediately stopped it from sailing.
Over the last few days there has been a proliferation of private boats ferrying passengers from the two islands to mainland, particularly Nkhata Bay, and back following the grounding in Monkey Bay (Mangochi) of their only reliable means of transport, the MV Ilala.
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