Jul 29, 2010, 2:04 PM
It is ten years since one of the world’s deadliest maritime disasters hit neighbouring Senegal, that is, the sinking of the Joola ferry.
The passenger ferry - which provided a key link between the north and south of Senegal - went down in the Atlantic in a storm on the night of September 26, 2002.
The Joola was licensed to hold only 580 people, including crew, but was found to have been carrying about 2,000 when it went down off the Gambian coast after setting sail from Ziguinchor in Senegal’s southern Casamance region.
Just 64 people were rescued. The true number of victims has never been established. The Senegalese government said 1,863 people died, but victims’ families say the real figure is over 2000.
A decade on, the tragedy still brings bitter memories for families who accuse the government of failing to deliver justice and keep its promises.
The memorial services in Senegal yesterday reminded us in The Gambia of the need to ensure continuing safety of our ferries.
We should always be vigilant, and should not take any thing for granted; so that when it comes to safety there should be no compromise.
We must always ensure that our ferries operate in accordance with international standards to prevent such disasters again in the Senegambia region.
Life is so important, and its protection is a responsibility of the state.
We pray for all those who lost their lives in the disaster ten years ago; for their soul to rest in peace.