SIMON MUNTEMBA writes
GOVERNMENT has procured 3 passenger vessels, one 24 seater and two by 120 seater boats in an effort to provide safer transportation on the waters.
Meanwhile, acting Minister of Transport and Communications Mutotwe Kafwaya has disclosed that government intends to construct temporary landing Jetties to operationalize the boats to ease the suffering of people on Lake Mweru and Bangweulu.
In a statement, Mr Kafwaya who expressed sadness on the tragic marine accident which left 18 people dead when a boat carrying them capsized on Lake Mweru in Nchelenge district of Luapula Province, said government shared the grief with the bereaved families and wished them God’s strength in these trying moments.
The Minister disclosed that preliminary investigations have revealed that the boat capsized due to overloading and stormy weather that occurred on the lake.
He said the accident which occurred on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 between 09:00 hours – 10:00 hours on Lake Mweru was as a result of overloading.
“It involved a motorized wooden boat carrying 39 passengers travelling from mainland Nchelenge to Isokwe Island.
“The boat capsized due to overloading and stormy weather that occurred on the lake. Twenty One (21) people survived the accident while 18 passengers drowned,” the Minister said.
Unfortunately, he said, the boat did not have the required number of lifesaving appliances on board that could have prevented this tragedy.
He, however reiterated that government was alive to challenges faced in water transport and has put in place measures to enhance water safety of the people on the waters.
“Government has procured three (03) passenger vessels; one 24 seater and two by 120 seater boats in an effort to provide safer transportation on the waters.
“The 24 seater is operational on Lake Bangweulu and is operated by Zambia Postal Corporations Services (ZAMPOST) whereas the two 120 seater passenger boats are yet to be launched in Nchelenge and Samfya,” the Minister said.
In order to expedite the launch of the two boats in Samfya and Nchelenge, Mr Kafwaya said, the Ministry of Transport and Communication liaised with the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure Development to engage the army to construct temporary landing jetties to operationalize the boats.
He said exercise was on course and route survey had been completed on Lake Bangweulu and was on-going on Lake Mweru.