President meets families and students at Hiriya following drowning deaths

President Mohamed Nasheed this morning met with the students and teachers at Hiriya School, following the drowning deaths last Friday of four of the school’s students and its principal.

The five drowned during a school fisheries science expedition to Huraa on the morning of Friday 9. None of the students could swim, and principal Ali Nazim drowned attempting to rescue them when they were caught in deep water.

Nasheed, who phoned each family personally following the incident – the country’s deadliest incident since the 2004 tsunami – met with the families individually today. Media was barred from the meetings.

Nasheed subsequently issued reassurances that cabinet had appointed a committee to determine emergency measures to prevent a repeat of the incident.

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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).

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