A Somalian man has narrowly escaped being buried alive after he was found comatose along with with five other men drifting in a small boat near the island of Makunudhoo in in Haadhaalu Atoll.
Makunudhoo islanders who rescued the men yesterday said it appeared the men had been drifting in the tiny 12-15 foot vessel for three months with little food or water.
An island official who assisted with the rescue told Minivan News that the boat was recovered yesterday at 5:30 pm by a fishing vessel, and that the men were in very bad condition when they were brought ashore.
”Everyone was shocked and felt sympathy for them at first glimpse,” he said. “There was no food, water or medication in the boat.”
Images and a video of the incident (below) showed the men badly emaciated and apparently suffering from severe malnutrition.
Word spread quickly across the island and nearly the whole population gathered near the beach to see the boat as it brought ashore.
Five of the men were rushed to the island’s health centre but the sixth man, curled up inside the boat’s anchor locker, was left on board as police assumed he was dead.
”We informed police of the incident immediately,” the official said. “They told us to leave the dead body and to take the rest of the men to health centre. They arrived later that night at 7:30 pm – people were really upset they came so late.”
The official told Minivan News that police tried to bury the ‘dead’ man immediately but were prevented by island elders.
”Elderly people denied the body from being buried on the island because of an old legend that claims the island might become haunted if a rotten dead body was buried,” he said.
The man was left in the boat’s anchor locker until this morning.
However when the islanders came to take the man’s body to be washed prior to burial, they were surprised to see him moving.
“Police insisted the body was not alive but was moving due to the motion of the water,” the official said. “But after a while he opened his eyes and started uttering something in his language which no one understood.”
He said everyone was shocked and rushed the man to the health centre.
”People so angry with police because they confirmed the body was dead without doing a medical check-up,” the official said. ”The poor man could have lost his life being buried alive after surviving three months adrift.”
He said all six men had now been admitted to hospital and their condition was improving.
”One man can stand up now,” he said, ”but someone from the Maldives who understands Somali is yet to be found.”
Islanders who spoke with the six men have been able to ascertain that the men were adrift for three months, after losing control of the boat and their bearings.
”We are all very sad that we left one man without medication and food, assuming he was dead,” the official said.
‘Everyone on the island quickened to help them, provide clothes and fragnances for them at the time they were brought, but left one man behind.”
He said some people had begun speculating that the men were pirates while others suggested they might have been fishermen became lost, although no weapons or fishing equipment were found on board.
”The boat was 12-15 feet long but had a 40 horse-power engine attached, which is enough to run twice as fast as a high speed gulf craft.”
Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that the man’s body had been handed to police who were not required to confirm his death.
He confirmed the men were Somali and said police were now investigating the case.
”We have been unable to get some information from them because of their medical condition,” he said. ”At the moment it’s very difficult to reveal any details.”