Stranded fishermen lived on dri*d fish for 17 days

By , K24 Digital
On Sun, 29 Dec, 2019 15:09 | 4 mins read
missing fishermen
From left: Juma Samuel Nzai (fisherman), village elder Mohamed Mbwana, Baraka Kahindi (fisherman) and Farouq Ahmed (chairman of Ngomeni Beach Management Unit). PHOTO | KNA
From left: Juma Samuel Nzai (fisherman), village elder Mohamed Mbwana, Baraka Kahindi (fisherman) and Farouq Ahmed (chairman of Ngomeni Beach Management Unit). PHOTO | KNA

Anthony Kitsutsu has organised a goat-eating party for his two sons on January 3, 2020 at his Garite home in Magarini Sub-County to celebrate their ‘re-birth.’

Although the two fishermen, Juma Samuel Nzai and Baraka Kahindi, are married adults with children, their father views them as infants who are barely a week old. 

“My sons were dead but now they are alive. I must hold a party for them because it is like my wife has given birth to them afresh,” he told journalists on Saturday at Ngomeni Beach, about 27 kilometers from Malindi Town.

30-year old Baraka and his 28-year brother Juma were among four fishermen who went missing in the Indian Ocean on December 9, 2019, and resurfaced on Christmas Day after surviving 17 days and nights in the open sea.

The fishermen said they survived on dried fish and sea water in the open sea where they were exposed to heavy rains and scorching sun all the while fearing their boat may capsize.

Baraka and younger sibling set sail with their boat captain Malik Mbwana and Edwana Munga aboard their motor boat from Kipini in Tana River on December 9 to inspect their lobster traps in the deep sea.  

But they did not return as expected, on the following day. And not even a week later.

“We went into the sea to check our lobster traps, but as we were returning heavy rains accompanied by strong winds started troubling our engine boat. It was about 1pm but the unexpected weather prevented us from moving further.

“Our captain switched the boat off and we tried to drop the anchor, but it did not reach the sea bed. Soon it was night. We slept to wait for day break but the strong winds drifted the boat deeper into the open sea,” Juma told reporters.

At dawn on the second day, Mbwana switched the engine on and started sailing but they were not sure where they were going since they could not see the sea shore.

“When we woke up in the morning, we did not know where we were. We switched the engine on again and started racing, but it is like we were going further from the shore. Then suddenly, the engine ran out of fuel,” he said.

They did not have any food or water with them. Luckily, they had carried some dried fish and drank the salty sea water to survive. When it rained on the seventh day, they tapped some water with containers they had carried with them.

“On the ninth day at sea, we spotted what looked like a Kenya Navy ship from afar and attempted to ask for help by waving our clothes since we could not ride the boat towards the vessel for lack of fuel,” he said.

But Juma said their efforts to get the Kenya Nancy ship’s attention were in vain since they were far apart and their boat had run out of fuel.

It was reported in the local media on Saturday that Kenya Navy officers refused to heed to the fishermen’s distress calls.  

Juma’s brother, Baraka, told reporters that it was a miracle that their boat drifted to Ras Ngomeni where they were rescued.

“It is like I was born again on Christmas Day. I thank God to be alive today. In the open sea, I prayed very hard and when I got tired, I asked God to take my life to end the agony,” he said.

Mr Kitsutsu, the duo’s father, said the family went through days of agony, not knowing where their kin where and whether they were alive or not.

He said he received a phone call from a villagemate who told him that his sons had gone missing in Kipini and he traveled to meet their boss.

“I went to Ngomeni several times to search for my sons. I travelled to most of the beaches in Lamu, Tana River and Kilifi counties with the hope that I would at least locate their bodies.

“One day I spent Sh800 to hire a boda boda operator for the search mission,” he said.

The fishermen’s father even consulted traditional seers in his desperate quest.

“One of them told me that my sons were well but they were inside a cave together with their boats. He did not offer any solutions,” he said.

When he lost all hope of ever seeing his sons again, Mr Kitsutsu started organizing for their funeral and put his three daughters-in-law, his sons’ eight children and the entire family on mourning mood.

“One day I received a call from a person in Malindi who told me that my sons had died and their bodies were at the Malindi Hospital mortuary but on arrival I found none of my sons’ bodies,” he said.

But a ‘young prophetess’ in the area had good words for him after she predicted that his sons would return to him.

“That girl told us that my sons would return home within three days on Sunday and true to her word, my sons were rescued on Christmas Day,” he said.

Mr Kitsutsu said on December 25, he received a phone call that four fishermen men had been rescued at Ras Ngomeni, just a few kilometers from his Garite home.

“I rushed to Ras Ngomeni to see the men but since I do not know the village very well, it was not easy to locate the place,” he said.

He said that he met the chairman of the Ngomeni Beach Management Unit, the Ngomeni assistant chief and officers from the Kenya Coast Guardwho had also received word about the rescue of the lost fishermen.

“How relieved I was when I identified my sons! The four men looked frail and confused. We rushed them to the Malindi Sub County Hospital where they were treated and discharged the same day. What a sweet re-union on Christmas Day!” he said.

 Ngomeni village elder Omar Mohamed Mbwana said the whole village came to a standstill on receiving the good news.

“What baffled us is the fact that they were rescued in Ras Ngomeni, just a few kilometers from their home after being stranded in the open sea for all those days,” he said.

Mr Ahmed called on the government through the Kenya Coast Guards to come up with a hot line to be used by security agencies and rescuers to respond to distress calls at sea.

“The BMU also needs to be equipped with modern machines and equipment that can be used to trace boats,” he said.