Committee to set emergency safety measures

The Cabinet appointed a ministerial committee to set emergency safety measures yesterday. The issue was raised after four students and the principal of Hiriya School drowned during a snorkeling excursion in Kaafu atoll Huraa last Friday.

Discussions addressed appropriate emergency preparedness and responsiveness in a crisis, and emphasised the need for the full cooperation from all concerned agencies.

The committee is chaired by Minister of Defence and National Security, Thalhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaanu, and consists of Minister of Home Affairs Hassan Afeef, Minister of Transport and Communication Mohamed Adil Saleem, Minister of Housing and Environment Mohamed Aslam, Minister of Education Shifa Mohamed and Minister of Health and Family Dr Aminath Jameel.


Drowning victims widely honored by Male residents

Thousands have paid their respects to the victims of yesterday’s drowning incident, and hundreds attended the funeral for the five deceased, held at Male’ Islamic Center last evening.

Four grade-nine students Nash-ath Saeed, Mariyam Naza, Aishath Saniha, Mariyam Shaiha and Hiriya Principal Ali Nazim drowned yesterday during a Fisheries Science trip to Kaafu atoll Huraa. Nazim had rescued four students from the water before being drowned with the other four victims, Haveeru reports.

Relatives who attended the funeral said that the students were not asked whether they knew how to swim, and blamed the school management. No life jackets were taken on the trip, one source claimed, although this was unverified.

Police were criticized yesterday by Huraa council Deputy President, Easa Ahmed for their inefficient response to the incident. Police and MNDF forces had allegedly been notified by the Huraa council immediately following the incident, Haveeru reports.

Nearby resort Four Seasons Maldives Kuda Huraa told Minivan News that it had sent a rescue boat upon learning of the incident. At 12:00pm yesterday, the resort held a moment of silence in remembrance of the Hiriya School principle and students.

A Wataniya event that had been scheduled for yesterday at Four Seasons was cancelled after President Mohamed Nasheed asked that respect be paid to the victims.

The President made personal calls to families of the victims yesterday, and requested that the national flag be flown at half-mast for three days from yesterday.


Four students and principal drown on school excursion

Almost two-thirds of Male’ attended the funeral on Friday for the principal of Hiriya School and four female students, who drowned off Huraa in Kaafu Atoll during a school fisheries science trip.

The bodies of grade nine students Nash-ath Saeed, Mariyam Naza, Aishath Saniha, Mariyam Shaiha and Hiriya Principal Ali Nazim were brought to Male’ in the afternoon.

The group of students left Hiriya School at 5:45am on Friday morning for a fisheries science field trip. A component of the trip involved snorkelling in an area used regularly by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) for training exercises.

Students entered the sea around 9:30am, accompanied by the school principal.

Haveeru reported sources as saying that Nazim died trying to single-handedly rescue the students, who were allegedly unable to swim when they were caught in eight feet of water in a lagoon north-east of Huraa. The area is known for having very strong currents.

Sun Online reported that Nazim attempted to rescue eight students who found themselves in trouble, and was able to save four before he died.

Sources at the funeral told Minivan News that the panicked students grabbed the principal when he reached them and he was unable to rescue the remaining children.

Relatives who attended the funeral said that the students were not asked whether they knew how to swim, and blamed the school management. No life jackets were taken on the trip, one source claimed, although this was unverified.

Haveeru reported that eight teachers accompanied the school trip of 32 to Huraa, and staff had the necessary first aid requirements.

The bodies were brought to Male’ in a speedboat around 10:40 from nearby Four Seasons resort. Meanwhile, the rest of the students returned yesterday afternoon and parents were summoned to attend the school.

The bodies were first brought to Aasahara cemetery in Galolhu, but due to the large number of mourners attending the funeral, their bodies were moved to the Islamic Centre.

The bodies were scheduled to be laid to rest after Isha prayer at 7:30pm, but of the large numbers the faces of the deceased were only covered at 10:30pm.

Hiriya school principal Ali Nazim

News of the tragedy quickly spread around Male’ and had a profound impact on the city, with reports of many parents ringing their children and begging them not to go in the water.

President Mohamed Nasheed telephoned the families of the deceased, and later announced that the national flag would be flown at half mast for three days.

Education Minister Shifa Mohamed is returning early from her trip to Australia and is expected to arrive in Male’ tomorrow.

Police Commissioner Ahmed Faseeh said a joint investigation into the incident had been launched by the police and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).


British woman who died at Kuredhoo “a strong swimmer”, say parents

The 42 year-old British woman whose body was found on the shore of Kuredhoo Island Resort has been identified as Sharon Duval from the village of Kidlington in Oxfordshire, UK.

The Oxford Mail reported that Duval died while on honeymoon with her husband Nick Duval. The pair were married last year and together ran the Highwayman pub in Kidlington.

Duval’s parents John and Pauline Stockford told the Oxford Mail that they did not know if she died “because of some sort of crime or an accident, and we will wait to hear the results of the postmortem.”

The pair told the Oxford Mail that they had not spoken to their daughter, who has a 16-year-old son, for 10 years after a family row.

“You can’t turn the clock back. We were both in tears when we found out and sat down and tried to talk it through,” they told the paper.

“Sharon was a very strong swimmer when she was a pupil, so it is surprising to hear that she died in these circumstances.

“The whole of Kidlington will be shocked by this – people still call it a village and it’s very close-knit.”

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam today told Minivan News that Duval had been observed drinking at the resort’s bar until late in the evening prior to her death, in the company of another individual.

“There is no sign of physical abuse or injury to the body, and at this point there is no evidence of any suspicious activity,” Shiyam said, “however are still taking the investigation very seriously.”

The resort yesterday declined to issue a statement to the media regarding Duvel’s death, however three staff members told Minivan News that the 42-year-old’s body was found on the seashore just after midnight on Friday evening, at approximately 12:30am.

The BBC has meanwhile reported that the UK Foreign Office is “urgently investigating” the death.

Duval is the second British national to die recently in the Maldives while on holiday. In early September top transplant and vascular surgeon Ali Bakran was pulled from the water and pronounced dead at Adaaran Meedhupparu Resort in Raa Atoll.

Police said that while the cause of death was “most likely” drowning, “it is very difficult to confirm without a postmortem, and that is not something we can do here [in the Maldives].”

The 61 year-old surgeon at Liverpool Hospital was on holiday with his wife Diane and daughter Miriam.


Chinese woman dies while snorkeling at Paradise Island

A 48-year old Chinese woman who had been snorkeling at Paradise Island Resort and Spa was pronounced dead this morning.

The woman was pulled from the water and rushed to ADK Hospital in nearby Male’ around 10:45am.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said ADK confirmed the woman was dead on arrival, and that the police investigation was now focusing on whether she was dead when she was pulled from the water.

The resort said it could not give any information on the matter until the conclusion of the police investigation.

The death of the Chinese woman comes just days after a top UK transplant surgeon died in the water while snorkeling at the Adaaran Meedhupparu Resort in Raa Atoll.

61 year-old Ali Bakran was on holiday with his wife Diane and daughter Miriam when he was pulled from the water and pronounced dead on August 27. The resort’s management would not confirm or deny the report.

Mohamed Ibrahim ‘Sim’ from the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) said yesterday that Chinese guests in particular needed to be made more aware of the dangers of snorkeling in the Maldives, “because it is a totally different environment than what they are used to.”

While UK tour operators passed on advice and information to tourists, China was a relatively new market “and the operators need to be made aware also,” Sim added.

“Few resorts have reception staff or guides who speak Mandarin.”

In mid-August a Chinese couple holidaying in the Maldives disappeared from their resort after they went for a swim.

The 38 year old woman and 40 year old man were holidaying with their 13 year-old daughter on the Hilton Irufushi Beach and Spa Resort in Noonu Atoll.

On March 14, police received a report that a Chinese national, Rui Dai, died while snorkelling at Holiday Inn Kandooma Resort, South Malé Atoll.

Earlier that same month another Chinese man died while snorkeling at Chaaya Lagoon Hakurahura Island Resort, less than a day after a German tourist died in a snorkeling accident at Embudu Village Island Resort.


Shanghai newspaper reports Chinese honeymooner dead in robbery

The Shanghai Daily newspaper has reported that a Chinese national on honeymoon in the Maldives was killed and his wife injured during a robbery last Sunday 14 March.

The English-language daily reported that the man, identified by his surname ‘Dai’, was a software engineer in his 20s who worked for the telecommunications company Alcatel Shanghai Bell.  The newspaper attributed the information to a statement issued by the company.

The report said Dai’s body was covered with bruises and cuts, and that the cause of his death had not yet been confirmed by Maldives Police Service.

Dai’s parents arrived in the Maldives after being informed of their son’s death and were initially told he had drowned, the newspaper reported.

Police confirmed to Minivan News today that they received a report at 12:45pm on 14 March that a Chinese national, Rui Dai, died while snorkelling at Holiday Inn Kandooma Resort, South Malé Atoll.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said they had found no major injuries on his body and police suspected he had drowned. He said a post-mortem examination was not performed on the body, and there were no reports of Dai’s wife being injured.

A source at Kandooma Resort confirmed a guest by the name of Dai and his wife were honeymooning at the resort, and that Dai had died the day after arriving on the island.

“He drowned while swimming in 5-10 feet of water,” the source said, adding that the body was found in the morning between 10:30am and 12pm by housekeeping staff and a French guest.

There was no bruising on the body, the source noted, adding that Dai’s family had arrived to pick up his body and were staying at the Holiday Inn in Malé.

Management at Kandooma had ordered staff not to divulge any information about the case, the source noted.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they had no information on a foreigner being robbed and killed, but said they had received a police report on Sunday about a man who died in a snorkelling accident. The President’s Office did not know about the murder claims, either.

Minivan News is seeking clarification of the reports from the Shanghai Daily and Dai’s employer, Alcatel Shanghai Bell, who released the report in China.

Dai is the second Chinese national to die in the Maldives this month.

Another Chinese tourist, Yeh Shihwei, drowned while snorkelling, also on his honeymoon, at Chaaya Lagoon Hakurahura Island Resort on 1 March 2010.

The resort manager for Chaaya Lagoon confirmed Shihwei died accidentally while snorkelling.


Girl dies after boat capsizes

A 13 year-old girl died when a boat capsized in Laamu Dhanbidhoo yesterday at around 4:15 pm.

The accident occurred during bad weather conditions as the boat was shipping sand from a nearby island, according to the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF).

The girl has been identified as Hawwa Aroosha of Fithuroanuge, Laamu Dhanbidhoo.

A 23 year-old man and three children were also on board when the accident happened.

One of the children, a 15 year-old boy, has been taken to Laamu Gan regional Hospital with serious injuries.