Missing man discovered in dinghy 900 miles from Maldivian waters

A Maldivian national reported missing earlier this month after leaving the island of Fares-Maathoda in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll in a dinghy has been discovered by a foreign vessel 900 miles from Maldivian waters.

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) confirmed that Mohamed Falah, a 30 year-old man from Fares-Maathoda reported missing since May 9, had been found in “good condition” by the crew of a foreign vessel travelling to Malaysia.

The announcement of Falah’s rescue comes as authorities continue to advise members of the public to take precautions during sea travel – particularly over long distances – following “extreme weather” reported across the Maldives this month.

The MNDF has said searches are continuing for three other men thought lost at sea.

MNDF Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem said authorities had initially been informed of Falah’s rescue through his family, before contacting the foreign vessel that discovered him.

He added that the Maldivian national was expected to arrive in Malaysia on the vessel on Saturday (May 25).

Falah’s wife Fathimath Nazeefa told local newspaper Haveeru that she spoken to her husband today, explaining that he was in “good condition” and had been well treated by the crew who rescued him.

Local media reported that Falah went missing after travelling from Fares-Maathoda to a nearby island to collect gravel needed for construction purposes.

“Necessary precautions”

Following concerns about extreme weather patterns, the Maldives Coast Guard last week published an announcement requesting “all travellers to take necessary precautionary measures before setting on their journeys due to the severe weather with heavy rain and thunderstorms… particularly in the northern and southern regions of the Maldives.”

Colonel Raheem said today that the MNDF was continuing to work with the Maldives Department of Meteorology to try and keep the public better aware of weather patterns in order to prevent further cases of vessels drifting and becoming lost in local waters.

“We cannot say that the condition with the weather is now ok, but it is certainly better at times,” he said.

Raheem said that the coastguard therefore continued to stress that anyone attempting sea travel should take precautions before a voyage.

He said that the MNDF Coast Guard therefore encouraged members of the public to contact its toll-free number 191 to get more information on suitable times for their journey.

“We welcome everyone to call the toll-free number and check the weather before they depart. We also encourage them to contact us if they are leaving on a long distance journey and also notify us when they arrive,” Raheem said.

Rescue attempts

The MNDF has said operations were continuing to locate three other men reported lost at sea this month, despite previously halting aerial search and rescue operations.

Speaking Monday (May 20), Colonel Raheem said that search and rescue operations for four men lost at sea – which at the time had included Mohamed Falah – were being downgraded.

He said at the time that although aerial operations have ceased, the reduced search efforts were being continued. An Indian Navy aircraft was previously assisting the MNDF Kurangi Helicopter with aerial search and rescue operations, but had recently departed the Maldives.

The three men still missing include Mohamed Sammoon, a 21 year-old surfer from Kolamaafushi Island in Gaafu Alif Atoll, who was reported missing around 4:30pm on May 4 after entering the ocean with a surfboard and being swept away by the current.

Two fisherman, identified as 39 year-old Hassan Rasheed from Maamigili Island in Alif Dhaalu Atoll and 32 year-old Abdulla Waheed from Maavashu Island in Laamu Atoll were also reported missing the same day along with the fishing vessel “Azum”.

The two crewmen and the 40 foot light-green fishing boat disappeared after departing from Mulak Island in Meemu Atoll en route to Maavah Island in Laamu Atoll, Sun Online reported.

With searches ongoing for the three men, Colonel Raheem said today that the coastguard had not presently received any additional reports of members of the public being lost in Maldives waters.

“There have been small incidents, but these are not major concerns,” he said.

Adverse weather

Hussein Waheed from the Maldives Department of Meteorology said extreme weather experienced over the last month was expected to improve over the next week.

“Right now we are still having rain, though we expect quite fine weather within the next three to four days,” he said.

Waheed added that adverse weather conditions this month been the result of the “early onset” of the traditionally wet South-West monsoon at the same time that a cyclone had formed in the Bay of Bengal area. The cyclone had since moved north-west towards India, the Maldives Department of Meteorology added.


Hoarafushi has “returned to normal” after last month’s flooding

Families displaced by last month’s flooding of Hoarafushi have been able to return home following a relief effort by the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC).

Twenty-four inhabited islands were reported to have been affected by the heavy rain, with Hoarafushi in Haa Alif Atoll deemed by the NDMC as the most severely affected.

According to Hoarafushi Island Council Chair Ahmed Mauroof, up to 95 houses were flooded in the area, affecting an “estimated 600 people.”

The NDMC has been working to restore normality on the islands since the flooding. Disaster Management Centre Project Officer, Hisan Hassan, said: “Everyone has been returned to their homes, and I have heard from a councillor on the island that it has returned to normal now.

“Some families are still expecting some aid relief, as many foods, electrical and personal items were destroyed in the floods.”

An initial figure of MVR 10 million (US$648,000) had been made available from a contingency component in the national budget to provide relief to the damaged islands.

A government spokesperson confirmed that a report on the damage has been published.

Joint efforts from the island council, the island’s youth, police, the MNDF, officials of the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) and staff from the nearby Manafaru resort helped to put up sandbags, move furniture and to pump water from clogged up roads.

The floods started with heavy rain in the late afternoon on Monday October 29, causing flooding of up to five feet, according to police. The rains lasted non-stop until dawn on Tuesday.

Other islands affected by the rising waters, including Haa Alif Baarah and Haa Dhall Hanimadhoo were also assisted by the MNDF Northern Area Command.

Speaking to Minivan News last month, Mauroof said: “The cost of damage caused by flooding is expected to rise to millions.

“We formed the task force because our aim is to recover from this as quickly as possible.”

The severe weather had been linked to low pressure from cyclone Nilam, over the Bay of Bengal.


Severe flooding in Hoarafushi damages 95 households

Severe flooding caused by heavy rainfall on Monday has forced several residents of Hoarafushi in Haa Alif atoll to evacuate their homes after flood waters damaged furniture and electrical wiring in 95 households.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Hoarafushi Island Council Chair Ahmed Mauroof said 95 households were flooded, affecting an “estimated 600 people.”

“The cost of the damage caused by flooding is expected to rise to millions,” Mauroof said, explaining that furniture and electronic equipment were damaged in the affected households.

While some families have since returned to their homes, Mauroof said the island council has provided housing and food for a number of islanders at a public building while others have found shelter with relatives.

The flood waters have now receded or been pumped out by the joint efforts of the island council, the island’s youth, police, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), officials of the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) and staff from the nearby Manafaru resort, Mauroof said.

The joint efforts included putting up sandbags, moving furniture and other items to safe locations and pumping water from clogged roads, police said in a press release yesterday.

Heavy rains that started in the late afternoon on Monday caused flooding of up to five feet, according to police. Thick torrential rains that started around 4:30pm on Monday reportedly lasted non-stop until dawn on Tuesday.

The MNDF Northern Area Command meanwhile launched efforts in collaboration with island councils on Monday to pump water from the affected northern islands, including Haa Alif Baarah and Haa Dhaal Hanimadhoo in addition to Hoarafushi.

Hoarafushi, one the of the northernmost islands in the Maldives, has a population of over 2,000 people.

Task force

In addition to households, Mauroof said flooding also caused damage to the island’s health centre.

“The flood water damaged the computer system and some documents there as well as medical equipment,” the councillor said, adding that electric wiring in “the very old building” was also damaged.

Moreover, as there was no sewerage system in the island, “the septic tanks, owned by the people of the island, burst, overflowed and spread waste into the island.”

Mauroof said he received information today that children and adults were being treated at the health centre for diarrhoea.

The island’s youth together with the island council have formed a task force to coordinate relief efforts and seek assistance, Mauroof said, adding that he was currently in Male’ with a number of youth from the island to seek donations.

The deputy chair of the island council was coordinating efforts back at Hoarafushi, he explained.

“We formed the task force because our aim is to recover from this as quickly as possible,” the council chair said.

As the only usable water in the island at the moment was rainwater stored in tanks – privately owned wells were also contaminated – Mauroof said the task force in Male’ was working with the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) to send water supplies to Hoarafushi.

Hoarafushi residents appeal for help on social media

On the efforts to seek financial assistance, Mauroof said business magnate and Jumhooree Party (JP) MP Gasim Ibrahim has donated MVR 250,000 while ‘Champa’ Mohamed Moosa has pledged the same amount on behalf of private broadcaster DhiTV and its sister network DhiFM.

Other wealthy individuals in Male’ have pledged financial assistance, he added.

Mauroof said he believed that assistance from “affluent persons” was necessary as it was “unlikely” that the island could recover from the flooding solely through the efforts of the council and central government in Male’.

Hoarafushi youth have meanwhile made appeals on social media for assistance. Mauroof said the task force planned to launch a hotline and a relief fund later today.

President Waheed visits Hoarafushi

President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik meanwhile arrived in Hoarafushi this morning and pledged government assistance to the families affected by flooding.

State broadcaster Television Maldives (TVM) reported that two people were being treated at the health centre for diarrhoea.

A TVM reporter at Hoarafushi explained that canals have been dug out on two locations of the island to draw flood waters out to the sea.

According to TVM, the DMC has set up an ’emergency working group’ with the MNDF, Maldivian Red Crescent and the Local Government Authority to assess damage caused by flooding and coordinate relief efforts.

Emergency Response Officer Mohamed Didi said that arrangements have been made with the State Trading Organisation (STO) to provide foodstuff to the affected islands, which also included two islands in Haa Dhaal Atoll.

“At 3:00pm today, an STO boat will leave Haa Dhaal Kulhudhufushi for Haa Alif Hoarafushi with 90 bags of rice, flour and sugar,” Didi told the state broadcaster.

Moreover, a second STO boat would leave from Male’ at 6:00pm with medicine, water supplies, pillows and mattresses, the DMC official said.

Meanwhile, in a statement today, former President Mohamed Nasheed noted “with happiness, the good example and Islamic principle showed by citizens to provide assistance to those in need at this time.”

In addition to the northernmost islands, the former president’s statement noted that severe weather has caused damage in the Hulhudhoo and Feydhoo wards of Addu City as well as Fuvahmulah in the south.

The Department of Meteorology yesterday warned of “rough seas, heavy rain and strong winds for the next two days.” The current weather conditions were believed to be linked to low pressure left by a cyclone currently active in the Bay of Bengal.

The BCC reported today that cyclone Nilam was expected to make landfall on the Tamil Nadu state of India.

Meanwhile, in an announcement yesterday, the MNDF coastguard urged travellers to take extra precautionary measures and stay updated on weather conditions.

The coastguard also advised against non-essential travel as heavy rains and rough seas were forecast for the next 24 hours.


Cyclone in Bay of Bengal causing adverse conditions in the Maldives

Heavy rains and strong winds experienced in the Maldives over the past few days have been linked to low pressure left by the cyclone currently active in the Bay of Bengal.

“Bad weather will be experienced from Huvadhu Atoll to Raa Atoll today. We have received information that Laamu Atoll has faced damage due to heavy rain. We also expect rough seas, heavy rain and strong winds for the next two days,” said Deputy Director General of Department of Meteorology Ali Shareef.

After heavy rains over the Eid holiday, weather conditions have deteriorated further in recent days reportedly causing damage to some property in the country’s southern atolls as well as flooding in Male’ in recent days.

The Meteorology Department has forecast heavy rains for at least another 24 hours with winds of between 25-35 miles per hour predicted as well as gusts between 50 and 60 miles per hour.

The department has advised against any maritime activities owing to the harsh conditions – which are said to include waves of between 4 and 6 feet on the open sea.

Sun Online has today reported the roofs of three houses were blown off by strong winds in Addu atoll. The MNDF are said to be lending assistance and no injuries have been reported.

The National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC) has requested atoll and island councils to inform it of any damage caused by the weather as well urging people to take precautions against the strong winds and anticipated floods, reported Haveeru.

“We advise you to maintain cleanliness at waste areas to avoid diseases that can arise from flooding, and also to remove overhanging branches,” said the statement.

The Sri Lankan meteorological department today called off an evacuation order along its periphery as the cyclone, situated in the south-east of the Bay of Bengal, changed course 100km from the coast and headed towards India.

India’s meteorology department is predicting winds of up to 90 miles per hour to hit the country’s south east, with local authorities in Tamil Nadu urging fisherman to stay on land and shutting down hundreds of schools.

“We have declared a holiday in all the schools, colleges, government offices in five districts of Tamil Nadu. Fishermen have been warned not to go out into the sea,” a government administrator told AFP.

Poor weather conditions in the Maldives last month resulted in over a dozen incidents of people stranded or capsized in the ocean, reported the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).