(eTN) – 2011 was a year tourism stakeholders in Lamu will be swift to forget, considering the two abductions from nearby Kiwayu and Manda island of foreign visitors and the subsequent near total drop of tourist arrivals. While the annual Lamu Festival in November brought back some numbers and reassured locals and visitors alike that the Kenyan government had finally taken their own assurances of providing safety and security seriously and beefed up deployment of troops, foreign media and in particular embassies through their travel advisories remained skeptical and careful in opening up the destination once again.
With the New Year Eve’s fireworks smoke hardly settled, however, fresh bad news has come in from Lamu, where last night a boat, reportedly carrying as many as 82 people, has sunk after crashing into another boat that was carrying oil drums. Many Kenyans had traveled to Lamu for the holiday period, to either visit relatives or else for a vacation, and the ferry boat, according to a source in Mombasa, was allegedly substantially overloaded as passengers tried to make it back to the mainland to catch their busses home in time to resume work on January 3, after January 2 was declared a public holiday in Kenya.
The Kenya Red Cross put up an emergency treatment center in a tent to be able to attend to anyone found alive after the crash, which occurred at approximately 9:00 pm on sunday. Rescue operations resumed at 5:00 am local time the next day when daylight became available.
The Kenya Red Cross, the country’s primary private sector emergency and disaster response agency, has confirmed through their Twitter account @KenyaRedCross that at present some 25 passengers have been recovered from the waters alive, 23 swam to safety of which 15 of those have been taken to a hospital. At least 9 bodies have been found, and at this point, Red Cross officials indicated it was a case of waiting for more bodies to surface.