Our lead story yesterday was about a boat disaster on the Volta Lake on Saturday in which five persons, including three children, have been reported dead.
The five were part of 100 passengers travelling from Azizanya to attend a funeral at Azizakpe in the Ada East District of the Greater Accra Region when their boat capsized.
Sympathies to bereaved families.
Even though disasters are bound to happen at certain times, when the same disaster keeps recurring, the whole situation keeps people wondering why that should be so.
The recurring boat and canoe disasters on the Volta Lake can be described as having become a phenomenon that needs particular attention.
It is sad to note that for decades now, no year has passed by without one disaster or another occurringin communities along the Volta Lake such as Dambai, Abotoase, Kpedzi, Tsevi and Agyatakope.
For instance, Saturday’s disaster follows another fatal one in January this year in which eight children died on their way from Atikagome in the Sene East District of the Bono East Region to attend school in a neighbouring community,Wayokope, when their boat also capsized.
We are sad that the same old avoidable causes keep being at the centre of these diasasters – overloading of the vessels (canoes and boats); and vessels striking tree stumps.
In the current case, for instance, the boat that was supposed to carry at most 50 passengers was carrying 100.
In the February 2012 Keta to Krachi West accident the boat was said to have run over a tree stump while overloaded.
Concerning the passengers, it is always thecase that they do not wear life-jackets.
It is important to note that in certain parts of the country where there are no road networks and bridges to connect the people, these canoes and boats are unavoidable.
They fuel their social and economic lives, which means that livelihoods and the very wellbeing of the people, including their health needs, depend on them.
They go by these vessels to farm, school, funerals and visit loved ones among other purposes.
This is to emphasise that for now, the government should do all it can to improve the water transportation system in these riverine communities.
To this end, the government must have a unit in the marine police set-up to devote all time and attention to monitor the canoe and boat operators and check their negative behaviours like overloading and speeding.
Clearly, lack of enforcement of rules and indiscipline among these operators (and probably some of the passengers) contribute to these disasters.
Also, there should be periodic removal of tree stumps, at least, from the way of the vessels.
Besides, the canoe-men should be trained in safety skills, including even how to handle a bad weather situation, while they are forced to avoid alcoholism.
Lives lost during these disasters, particularly the children and those in their productive years, mainly due to the passengers not wearing life-jackets, are highly regrettable.
We, therefore, reiterate our call on the government in the past to make life-jackets available to the canoe and boat operators under strict supervision and monitoring by marine police to ensure safety and reduce deaths should they occur in the first place.
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