20 April 2017

Malawi: Chakwera Backs Livingstonia Synod On Declaring Boat Tragedy 'National Disaster'

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera, who is also leader of opposition, has backed Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), whose members were the major victims of the Easter Sunday Rumphi boat tragedy, for declaring the Mlowe incident the 'Church National Disaster'.

Synod general secretary the Reverend Levi Nyondo said the declaration of the 'Church National Disaster 'was made because many people have died and others are missing, saying such an incident is automatically a national disaster.

Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) director for response and recovery Paul Kalilombe dismissed the church for making the declaration, saying decision of such declarations "rests with higher authorities."

But Chakwera said after send-off service of three people who died in the capsized boat that the church was right declaring it a 'national disaster'.

Accompanied by parliamentarian for the area Kamlepo Kalua, the leader of the opposition who boarded a boat between Mlowe and Mzunga, said government should find immediate solution to help people on transport challenges.

"People here have no other means of going to the other sides of Tchalo apart from the boat. These Malawians must be helped by providing safer ways of transporting their goods including their safety," Chakwera said.

About 79 people, mostly Church of Central Africa Presbytery (CCAP) Synod of Livingstonia members, boarded what police said was an unseaworthy boat designed to carry 40 people on Sunday on their way back home in parts of Rumphi and Nkhata Bay North along the shores of Lake Malawi in Rumphi district.

The boat was hit by a storm; a development that made it difficult for the operator to control the vessel, leading to it's capsizing.

Five women drowned in the process while 33 managed to swim to the shore which Chakwera said he was saddened with.

Community members had initially launched a search for the victims before the police who were later joined by Malawi Defence Force (MDF) divers came in. The community members used dugout canoes to help rescue the victims and managed to trace nine people, including the five who drowned and were confirmed dead at Mlowe Health Centre.

Meanwhile, MDF has beefed up its search team with two more divers to assist in searching for victims of Easter Sunday boat tragedy in Lake Malawi.

The two add on the team of six divers from Chilumba Barracks in Karonga deployed on Monday.

Chakwera said in the boat on Wednesday in the Lake Malawi, he met the MDF soldiers on rescue operations and observed that the challenge is beyond the local people.

"I wish leaders could experience this problem," he said.

MDF spokesman Wilned Chawinga said they will continue searching for the missing victims.

However, no person was rescued and no bodies were recovered in the search on Tuesday and Wednesday.


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