Following an increase in drowning tragedies at the Coast, Kilifi county government has allocated Sh30 million for the purchase of rescue facilities to ensure the safety of swimmers and fishermen venturing into the Indian Ocean.
Subsequently, the county has also formed a team to provide lifeguard services in all public beaches. The 25-member Kilifi County Coast Guard comprises lifeguards trained two years ago by the US Navy personnel based in Djibouti.
Governor Amason Kingi said beside safety assurance especially to thousands of students who visit the region during holidays, the move will boost domestic tourism. His move comes barely two weeks after seven pupils from a school in Murang’a county drowned in Diani beach in an incident that shocked the nation.
Kingi said the special unit will also tackle illegal fishing in Kenyan waters. “The team will also be on the lookout for drug barons bringing narcotics into the country through Indian Ocean as well as peddlers along the beaches,” he said.
Speaking in Kilifi town yesterday, Kingi revealed that his government is drafting a fisheries bill to streamline the sub-sector for the benefit of the local fishermen.
“Currently, as a county we lack the capacity to apprehend illegal fishermen who invade our waters as we only rely on the Kenya Navy personnel,” said Kingi, adding: “The unauthorised and unregulated fishing has been on the rise because the Ministry of Fisheries’ special unit in Mombasa county can only report the encroaching vessels in the Indian Ocean but lacks capacity to apprehend culprits.”
The governor raised concerns over soaring crime rate at public beaches which he said has adversely affected tourism. He said the new team will work closely with the county’s Inspectorate Department and other security agencies to beef up security at beaches.
Drug peddling, prostitution, and theft cases are rampant along the beaches during peak tourism seasons, with criminals often posing as beach operators. Coast Guard Head of Operations Administration Police officer Abdi Kibwana commended the county government for forming the new team, saying it will go a long way in instilling confidence in visitors.
He said last year, 10 people were rescued from the ocean and three bodies retrieved after drowning in Indian ocean. “Last week, we managed to retrieve a body of a fisherman at Bofa area. He was returning home and his boat was swept away by strong waves and overturned,” he said.