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13.04.2006 Disaster

Govt to probe boat disaster

Accra (Gh) 13 April 2006 - A full-scale investigation is to be launched into last
Saturday's boat disaster which reportedly claimed many lives on the Volta Lake.

The tragedy occurred at Amenokope Front View, an area 12 nautical miles away from
Tapa-Abotoase in the Volta Region.

The Minister of Harbours and Railways, Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi, who announced the
probe at a news conference in Accra yesterday, said the committee to carry out the
investigations would comprise top officials from the Ministries of Harbours and Railways
and Lands and Forestry.

So far, 10 bodies, mostly those of children, have been retrieved from the lake, while a
search party was still at work in search of more bodies.

Earlier reports had put the number of passengers on board the 70-capacity boat at 150,
with 120 of them feared dead, but a preliminary report released by the Ghana Maritime
Authority (GMA) said although the number of people on board the "Born Again 604"
boat was about 78, there was a greater load of goods that weighed the boat down.

It was to convey the passengers and their property from Digya to Tapa-Abotoase but
failed to reach its destination after a 15-minute storm diverted the loaded boat to hit a tree
stump, making it to eventually capsize.

The deceased are Bright McCarthy, one year seven months, Fati Hassan, seven, Doe
Tobo, eight, Yayra Tobo, one year eight months, Lydia Ahiagba, five, and Lami Seidu,
16.

The rest are Garo Zamarama, 70, Dora Bedra, 46, Mami Labila, 40, and Kweku Ahiagba,
34.

As a result of the decomposed nature of the bodies, the families, in agreement with the
elders of the area, have since buried the deceased in a mass grave.

Forty-four of the survivors have formally reported to the Boat Owners Association, with
more expected to come, after a call to all those who were on the boat to report for a
proper inventory to be taken.

Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi used the occasion to express the condolence of the
government to the bereaved families.

Meanwhile, Professor Ameyaw-Akumfi, accompanied by the Director-General of the
GMA and other officials from the ministry and the GMA, on Tuesday, visited the area to
verify the situation on the ground.

Information gathered from the survivors pointed to the fact that while there were no
chances of more survivors being found, the probability of finding any more bodies was
also very slim because a greater number of the people were rescued on the day of the
accident.

According to them, majority of the victims were rescued by fishermen in canoes who
heard about the accident. The survivors dismissed earlier reports that about 120 people
had died from the disaster.

One of the survivors, John Asiedu, who had cane marks on his back, narrated his ordeal,
saying, "We realised the boat was full but the Wildlife Division officials would not budge
but forced all of us, together with our livestock, onto the boat".

A 65-year-old man, Alhassan Amadu, another survivor who lived in the forest reserve,
described the forestry officials as "heartless human beings who have no sympathy for the
poor".

He said although they knew they had to leave the reserve, as demanded by the authorities,
there was no justification for the forestry officials to use brute force to get them on board
a boat which was supposed to carry a maximum of 76 passengers at a time.

Briefing the minister and his entourage, Mr Caizaro Yao Awoye, the Secretary of the
Boat Owners Association in the area, said a canoe, Oti Express, had rescued 64 people a
few minutes after the accident, while another, by name Busy Boy, also rescued five.
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