By: Henry Lubulwa
Kalangala: About 100 boat passengers survived drowning in Lake Victoria when an engine of a boat they were travelling in broke down.
The incident, which occurred on Tuesday, forced the passengers travelling from Nakiwogo in Entebbe Municipality to Lutoboka Landing Site on a boat, MV Moses, to call the police marine for rescue. The passengers floated for several hours on the lake at the mercy of the waves.
Ms Resty Nakawungu, a district councillor, who was also on board, said they took off from Nakiwogo at about 2pm.
But barely an hour into the journey, she said the boat turned and faced the direction where they were coming from. “We asked what had happened but the captain told us that we were still safe,” she said.
The district police commander, Mr Samuel Mishoni, immediately dispatched a team from the marine led by Mr Amos Ndungutse, the assistant inspector of police, to save the travellers.
Some passengers, who had lost hope of survival were already sending last wish messages to their loved ones.
“After seeing the marine boat approaching, most people started shouting for rescue,” Ms Nakawungu said.
Upon reaching the passengers, Mr Ndungutse found that only 17 had life jackets. “We were disappointed to have such a boat carrying passengers moving without life jackets,” he said. He also wondered why the boat captain did not have enough skills to operate such a big boat. According to him, when such a boat is stuck, all engines on the boat should be disconnected so that it moves with the help of the wind.
Ropes were later tied from the boat to the marine boat to tour it to the nearby Kachanga Island, about a mile away.
At about 7pm, the engine was repaired and passengers, who included district councillors, Grade One Magistrate Kenneth Gimungu and Red Cross manager Ibrahim Ssenyonga set off to their final destination.
The boat reached Lutoboka at about 8.30pm but as passengers disembarked, the district secretary for works, Ms Elon Ssemugema, fell into the water, prompting divers to run to her rescue. She was later taken to hospital for treatment.
Mr Ndungutse asked the government to provide the force with enough resources such as fuel for immediate rescue in such incidences. He said they force had to first identify where they could get fuel before they ran to the people’s rescue.