Two men drown in Fiyori, one boat sinks in bad weather

Two men drowned in southern Gaaf Dhaal Atoll Fiyori in bad weather and a boat with a cargo of timber has sunk in Malé atoll today.

The metreology department predicts heavy rains, strong winds up to 45 miles per hour and rough seas across the Maldives for the next 24 hours.

A yellow alert, indicating tidal swells, severe thunderstorms, and winds between 30 and 40 miles per hour, has been issued for the central and southern atolls.

Hassan Shihab, 53, and Abdulla Daood, 60, drowned in the lagoon of Fiyori Island while fishing this morning. The two men had waded 450 meters away from the shoreline.

Both were strong swimmers, but the currents were too strong, the island council said.

A man on the shore got on a speedboat and went to pick the two up when he saw Shihab and Daood going under. By the time he reached the two, Daood was already dead. He could detect a faint pulse in Shihab’s body. But doctors pronounced both men dead at the island’s health post.

A 70-foot boat carrying timber and five crew members sank in northern Malé Atoll at about 2:00pm today.

The coastguard found the two Maldivians and three expatriate workers in a dinghy and have now brought the crew to Malé.

Another boat nearly sank near Baa Atoll Goedhoo island to the north east of Malé this morning. The 65-foot boat started taking on water at 8:30am causing its engine to stall.

The coastguard towed the boat to shore at noon.

The Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF) has warned seafarers to be cautious, and urged boats not to take on excessive weight.

Heavy rain has caused flooding in four southern islands, and damaged crops in Gaaf Dhaal Vaadhoo.

MNDF officers are pumping out flood waters in Hoadhedhoo, Madaveli and Thinadhoo islands in Gaaf Dhaal atoll and in Fuvahmulah Island.

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Indian navy ship Gomati arrives in Maldives

Indian navy ship Gomati arrived in the Maldives yesterday, according to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

The INS Gomati would be taking part in a joint surveillance patrol of the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from March 11 to 16, MNDF said in a statement.

It added that MNDF coastguard vessels would also be involved in the patrol.

Indian naval vessels have routinely conducted joint surveillance and anti-piracy patrols with the MNDF coastguard.

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Coastguard to conduct joint military exercise with India, Sri Lanka

The Maldives National Defence Force’s (MNDF) coastguard will be conducting the 12th edition of the ‘Dosti’ joint military exercise with the Indian and Sri Lankan coastguards from October 28 to 31.

The Indian High Commission explained in a press statement yesterday that 11 editions of the joint exercise have taken place since 1991.

The aim of India-Maldives-Sri Lanka Tri-Lateral Exercise ‘DOSTI’ is to further fortify the friendship, enhance mutual operational capability, and exercise interoperability and to build cooperation between the Coast Guards of Maldives, India and Sri Lanka,” the press release stated.

“The focus areas during Dosti-XII will be to exercise the important charter of Coast Guard duties, including Maritime Search and Rescue (M-SAR), Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), Marine Pollution Response (POLRES) and Anti-piracy operations.

“For the first time the exercise will also be viewed by representatives from maritime forces of Seychelles and Mauritius.”

The military vessels involved in the exercise – two ships from the Indian coastguard, one from Sri Lanka, and two from Maldives – “will practise responding to actual emergencies of Search and Rescue, Medical evacuation and Pollution Control response at Sea which will further enhance the ability of each Coast Guard to attend to real emergencies at sea.”

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Manhunt underway for escaped convicts

Police have launched a manhunt for two convicts serving life sentences who escaped from Maafushi jail on Friday night (October 17).

Police intelligence learned around 8:15pm that cell mates Ibrahim Shahum Adam, 23, from Galolhu Cozy in Malé, and Fariyash Ahmed, 26, from Javahiruvaadhee in Gaaf Alif Maamendhoo, had broken out, police revealed in a statement last night.

Police asked the Maldives Correctional Service (MCS) around 8:30pm to check their cell.

The pair reportedly escaped through a ventilation shaft from the ‘Pentagon’ unit.

Home Ministry’s Media Coordinator Thazmeel Abdul Samadh told Minivan News today that the suspects might still be in Maafushi.

A joint search effort involving police, MCS and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) is ongoing to check the area around the prison as well as warehouses and guest houses on the island, Thazmeel said.

The MNDF’s coastguard is searching the sea around Maafushi, he added.

Police said today that an investigating team and an operation team were sent to Maafushi and were currently searching the island as well as nearby uninhabited islands and resorts.

Thazmeel said nearby resorts have been informed about the breakout and stressed that the government was employing “all available resources” to find the escapees.

Police have urged anyone with information of the escaped convicts to call the police hotline number 3322111 or the serious and organised crime department at 9911099.

“Every prison escape is an opportunity for Prison Officers to identify the loop holes and improve the system while we hunt them down,” Home Minister Umar Naseer tweeted today.

In March 2013, Shahum was convicted on terrorism charges in connection with the murder of Mohamed Hussain, 17, from Maafanu Beauty Flower in Malé  in July 2010.

Fariyash was sentenced to life imprisonment for his part in the murder of Mohamed Shihab, from Kaduolhi in Gaaf Alif Villigili, on the island of Maamendhoo in 2006.

Shahum is also on trial for the murder of 21-year-old Ahusan Basheer near the NC Park in Malé. The Criminal Court has concluded hearings of the case and is due to deliver a verdict.

Shahum allegedly stabbed Basheer in February 2011 after he was released by Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed following six months in remand detention. He was later taken into custody from an uninhabited island.

In June 2011, the Criminal Court found Shahum guilty of assault and battery in an unrelated case and sentenced him to one year’s imprisonment.

The victim told the court that Shahum attacked him with a wooden plank after he refused to have tea with him. The victim explained that Shahum was studying with him at an Imam training course and that he had to drop out of the course due to haraassment from Shahum

Shahum was also among nine individuals detained and labelled by police as “dangerous criminals” involved in violent assault.

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile blamed the government’s “irresponsibility and incompetence” for the jail break.

In a press statement today, the main opposition party contended that public safety has been lost while murders, violent assaults, and drug trafficking has reached “extreme levels” under the current administration.

The public has been expressing concern with the government’s inability to bring perpetrators who commit crimes in “broad daylight” to face justice, the party said.

The MDP called on the government to conduct a thorough investigation and hold culpable officials accountable.

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US naval ship to visit Maldives

A United States naval ship is due to visit the Maldives in mid-October as part of a routine patrol of the Indian Ocean, the US embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka has said.

The USS Rodney M. Davis is “an Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate with the U.S. 7th Fleet”, the embassy explained in a press release.

The ship’s officers and crew are expected to work with the Maldives National Defence Force, including its coast guard, “to improve regional security through close communication, coordination and information exchanges, while supporting at-sea and ashore training opportunities.”

“It will be tremendously beneficial to build on our excellent relationships with the maritime nations of the Indian Ocean,” the press release quoted Vice Admiral Robert Thomas, Commander US 7th Fleet, as saying.

“The area is critical to regional security, and the partnerships we build with this training will go a long way to creating a more professional and stable maritime environment.”

“My crew and I are excited to visit the Maldives,” said Commander Todd Whalen, commanding officer of the Rodney M. Davis, expressing gratitude to the Maldivian government for the opportunity to visit the country.

“We are grateful for the chance to make new friends and work with our counterparts in the Maldivian National Defence Forces.”

According to the embassy, “the Rodney M. Davis is on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”

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Monitoring border 24/7 near impossible, says coastguard commander

Monitoring the Maldives’ borders and ensuring security 24 hours a day is difficult and costly, Coastguard Commander Colonel Mohamed Ibrahim told the press today.

Speaking to reporters following the opening ceremony of a three-day maritime seminar in Malé, Ibrahim noted that the islands of the Maldives were surrounded by open waters, which covered a territory “larger than South Korea.”

The coastguard together with customs and police were utilising limited resources to the best of the institutions’ ability, he added.

Surveillance operations were conducted once a month with assistance from neighbouring countries, the colonel noted.

More than 30 representatives from state institutions are participating in the seminar, which is conducted by Transport Authority of Maldives (TAM) in conjunction with the International Maritime Organisation.

Ibrahim meanwhile expressed confidence that “the speed and quality of services provided to the public by technical experts” would improve as a result of the seminar.

In addition to formulating a national plan for search and rescue operations, participants at the seminar are reportedly expected to discuss how to reduce response times for disaster management from 48 to 24 hours.

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Defence minister denies Indian offer to build Thilafalhu dockyard

Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim has told local media that no official offer from India to build a dock yard in the Maldives has been received.

Following reports in the Indian media last week that India’s Army Chief General Bikram Singh has offered to build a dockyard worth MVR 7.7 billion (US$ 500 million) in the Maldives during his official visit, Nazim told Haveeru that the job would not be awarded to a foreign military.

Nazim did say that many offers had been received for the Uthuru Thilafalhu lagoon project, in the archipelago’s north, but that no decision had yet been made.

Reclamation work is already underway in the area. Once completed, it will serve as the Maldivian Coastguard’s primary operations base and will provide a much-needed berthing space to naval ships and ocean liners.

India’s Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, during a visit to the Maldives in February, visited the Uthuru Thilafalhu project site.

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Coastguard looking for missing safari boat

The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) coastguard has started looking for a safari boat after it was reported missing.

In a statement today, the MNDF said that the boat named ‘Al-Dhabaran’ – owned by a company named ‘Blue Voyage Cruises’ – left the island of Kaadehdhoo in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll to travel to Malé on March 18, since which time the owner of the boat had been unable to contact the vessel.

The MNDF said the owner of the boat had described the Al-Dhabaran as being 28 meters long and there will be five crew members aboard.

The MNDF appealed to the public to report any information they have regarding the missing boat and requested that anyone with information contact coastguard at 3395981 or 3398898.

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MNDF continues search for lost diver

The Maldives National Defense Forces’ (MNDF) search for a lost diver has entered a second day.

Mohamed Jameel, 41, was reported lost at 11:55 am while he was diving with two others off the southern coast of Villingili Island in Kaafu Atoll. He was on a boat called Vidhuvaru.

Jameel was last seen wearing a black mask, a black dive suit and blue fins.

The MNDF has appealed to all boats traveling in the area to keep an eye out for Jameel, and called on the public to call toll free number 191 or 3395981/ 3398898 if they receive any reports of the missing diver.

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