A helicopter with five people aboard went down in Lake Nakuru several days ago. What followed was disastrous, when a useless fishing boat was brought in from Naivasha to assist in the rescue mission, four hours after the crash.
It was one of several embarrassing actions that occurred on that fateful day. As one Anwar Saddat wrote on Facebook, the first respondents didn’t have the right gear and looked like they were digging for earthworms.
Lake Nakuru National Park is the most visited park in the country. It means that the lake, which plays host to millions of flamingos, is central to what happens in the park. For KWS not to have a single boat in the park is a monumental shame.
The ramshackle boat brought in from Naivasha wasn’t really there for a rescue, but to recover the bodies. They recovered nothing on the first day.
The Kenya Navy are headquartered in Mombasa and that’s about 70 minutes by air from Nakuru — and for them not to have sent divers within three hours of the incident demonstrates our clear lack of preparedness.
The real tragedy, though, is that it was not an isolated incident. In August, Mr. Shekue Kahale lost 10 of his relatives after a boat capsized in Lamu. The currents carried away his wife, sister and aunt, but he somehow managed to hold onto the seven children that were on board and swam for over four hours as they waited to be rescued.
After more than seven hours of waiting, he watched in agony as, one by one, the children succumbed to fatigue as they slipped off the floater.
He ended up being the sole survivor. “I am sure my family could have been saved if there had been active marine patrols in the Indian Ocean at the time the accident occurred,” Kahale would later say during an interview.
The 2016-2017 budget allocated Sh264 billion for defense, National Intelligence Service and Interior Ministry. Yet even with that kind of budget, a combined search and recovery team comprising Kenya Navy, Kenya Police, Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service officers had to be assisted on the third day by a local farmer, Mr. Luke Nightingale, who provided them with a map of the lake, two boats and divers.
Like every modern tragedy of our times, the media and Kenya Red Cross got to the scene of the accident before the rescue team. The young people in that chopper were working for the ruling party, meaning they were more privileged than most. This, however, did not guarantee a faster emergency response. That, right there, is a valuable lesson.
The unfortunate accident is also a lesson to all of us who keep saying the most hateful, divisive things in defense of our politicians. At the end of the day, in your time of need, you’re on your own. The politicians they worked for continued on with their day as if nothing had happened.
They hardly broke a stride as they continued running around the country looking for votes and could not even send a military chopper with divers immediately to join the search and rescue.
This article first appeared in my Nairobian column.