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Opinions of Monday, 12 September 2011

Columnist: Agbenyo, Samuel Kofi

The Volta Lake Boat Disaster What Really The Situation Is

I wish to express my views on the recent Volta Lake boat disaster that occurred, claiming many lives. I wish to send my heart felt condolence to the bereaved families.
To begin with, it seems all persons who spoke about the boat disaster are not well informed about what actually have been happening there. The reporter who broke the news reported it as if he was giving on the situation report. That was very bad. What we must all know is that when a boat capsizes, within thirty seconds the people who can not swim will all die, settling on the bed of the river and will float three days after. Therefore, it is very strange for someone to pretend as if the people were hanging some where that may be rescued. This can only happen to those who swam to stump or held onto the capsized boat if it did not sink. Even then, they are rescued by passersby or fishermen that may be available. For the floating items on the surface of the water are enough signals to people that an accident has occurred.
Secondly, I am also amazed that the national NADMO coordinator who hails from Ada and knows much about boat disaster was also using the term rescue. What were they rescuing? The incident we are told happened in the knight. That means, even before the news broke the next morning, those who will die had already died and those who could be saved have already been saved by the local people. There was nothing left for any body to do, except to retrieve the floating dead bodies that will float two to three days after. What actually NADMO can do at the time is to help retrieve the dead bodies and also help the survivors with relief items, since, all the food stuffs they bought were lost and they do not have any thing to live on.
Thirdly, for journalists who are not conversant with the situation to sensationalize the issue as if it is the negligence of the government that caused the accident, is misplaced. Again, it is very unfortunate for government officials who should know better and paint the right picture for those who do not know what it means to say a boat has capsized, to get the right picture, were rather muddying the waters. The boat disaster on the Volta Lake is more attitudinal than negligence from the government.
Fourthly, to say government was going to remove tree stumps from the river to safeguard river transport can not be wholly achieved. This could be achieved in towns like Abotoase, krachi, Kpando, Dzemeni, Kwamekrom ,Yeji and the likes. However, such a task will be very difficult to carry out in villages along the other banks of the Lake. This is as a result of the fact that most of these villages are not permanent like those towns mentioned above. Many of these villages are temporal and the fisher folks move as and when they want or where the fish appear for them harvest. Thus, it will be very difficult to remove the tree stumps along these banks to provide safe passage for the boats. More so, it is in these areas that most often the accidents do occur. It is also needless for the deputy minister for transport to say that there was a team ready to go to India to look at a fiber boats for the government to import them for use by lake transport owners here. The fact is that even if the fiber boats are purchased and the boat operators do not change their attitude, the accident will continue.
Furthermore, it is the failure of boat owners to adhere to advise that is causing the frequent accidents on the lake. We learnt the passengers were not wearing life jacket. We are also told that the passengers claimed they were not comfortable putting on the jacket. Government officials also claim a thousand life jackets were supplied. Which is which? What do we take now? What prevented the navy stationed at these centers seeing to it that the passengers put on the jacket before the boats set off? Another factor is that the boat operators have been overloading the boats more than what it can take. Most often, for the fact that there are many loads for the boats to take, the operators do ignore the capacity of the boats and over load them. The result is the accident.
In addition to that, rainstorm is another cause of accident. When there is a wind storms, it causes accident. This can be prevented if the boat operators make it their habit to listen to weather report everyday. This will inform them about the weather and guide their movement. They must also adhere to safety measures. Some of these safety measures are that they leave at a time that they can reach their destinations before night falls. The person guiding the operator must be alert and make sure that he looks into the water well so as to see any stump beneath the water and signal the operator appropriately to maneuver the boat pass it without hitting it or climbing it. The passengers themselves must be wise enough to avoid being packed into the boat by these money conscious boat operators who throw all cautions to the wind. Most of the time, when such accidents occur the boat operators do not die. It is the innocent passengers that lose their lives. Therefore, they must reason enough to save themselves if the boat operators intend over loading the boat or want to leave for home or for the market at a time that is not appropriate.
Finally, it will be better for us all to adopt the needed measure to stop this needless lost of lives on the lake. Politicizing this issue will not help anyone. There have been several deaths on the lake which were not reported, even when police heard of it and came there, the folks made sure that the dead bodies were picked at the blind side of the police and buried. We are fortunate to hear this one because of the proliferation of the media. It will be in our interest for all of us to do what is in our power to stop this uncalled for deaths.

SAMUEL KOFI AGBENYO
0243404557