Attempts by the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) to locate a Belgian national, missing since Friday, have as yet been unsuccessful.
Olivier Louis Albert Lieux, a 35-year-old Assistant Food and Beverages Manager at Four Seasons Resort Kuda Huraa, went missing after his dinghy capsized while reef fishing near Paradise Island resort, reports local media.
He is reported by the MNDF to have been last seen wearing a dark-blue t-shirt and white shorts.
After a large wave overturned the vessel, Lieux’s colleagues swam to shore only to realise he was not with them on their arrival, reported media.
The MNDF has said its search will continue from both the sea and the air.
The Maldives’ Reethi Beach resort has been rated as one of the world’s top beach holiday destinations by users of the Switzerland-based travel ratings website Holidaycheck.com.
The site awarded the top 99 reader-recommended hotels across several categories, drawing on 530,000 reviews received in 2011.
Other winners in the beach holiday category included Hotel Royal Dragon in Turkey, Hotel Iberostar Varadero in Cuba and Hotel Ramada Resort Khao Lak in Thailand.
Meanwhile Four Seasons’ Kuda Huraa resort was named ‘Best Overseas Leisure Hotel’ in the Condé Nast Traveller India Readers’ Travel Awards 2011.
The award, which canvased Indian readers of the upmarket travel magazine, follows the publication’s awarding of ‘Best of the Best’ Award and ‘Best Overseas Leisure Hotel in the Middle East, Africa & Indian Ocean’ to the resort at its UK event.
Reethi Beach currently has a 76 percent rating on Minivan News’ resort review website, Dhonisaurus, which calculates ratings from 10 Maldives-specific categories. The resort currently scores a very high 90 percent rating for its beach, and similarly high ratings for service, house reef, and value. It scored lowest (60 percent) for its rooms.
Kuda Huraa scores 73 percent overall with an exceptional 100 percent for service, and high ratings for its environmental commitment, rooms and its overall look and feel. It scored lower for its house reef.
The Health Ministry has established a counseling hotline for those traumatised by the drowning incident at Huraa last Friday.
Four grade nine students and the principal of Hiriya School drowned during a Fisheries Science snorkeling trip last Friday. Principle Ali Nazim drowned trying to rescue Nash-ath Saeed, Mariyam Naza, Aishath Saniha, and Mariyam Shaiha from a strong current off of Huraa island.
Deputy Health Minister said the Education Ministry requested a free counseling service on the day of the incident, and the hotline became operative on Saturday.
Counselors, administrators and volunteers for the hotline are based at IGMH hospital, where the victims were brought on Friday for examination. Hospital CEO Cathy Waters said, “the hotline is for anybody affected by the incident across the community, especially family, friends, school staff, the teachers on the trip, and IGMH staff who were involved in the case at the hospital.”
Deputy Health Minister Lubna Mohamed Zahir Hussein told Minivan News that the hotline has been heavily used since it went into effect. She estimated that over 50 people are involved in the service.
Lubna added that there is no end date for the hotline. “These things need to be settled slowly,” she said.
The hotline is open from 8 am until 10 pm, on 3010005.
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.
Condé Nast Traveler magazine has rated the Maldives the second most popular island destination in the world.
The magazine’s 14th annual Readers’ Travel Awards also recognised the Kuda Huraa Four Seasons Resort as ‘The Best of the Best in the World’s Top 100’ resorts. The resort was also named ‘Best Overseas Leisure Hotel in the Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean’.
Resort General Manager Sanjiv Hulugalle traveled to London last week to receive the award on behalf of the Four Seasons.
“This award is a testament to an amazing joint effort and we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who voted for us,” Hulugalle said at the ceremony. “We’re constantly looking to raise the bar.”
Some of the most revered names in competitive surfing are expected to convene in the Maldives later this year to compete in a special tournament being hosted at Four Seasons’ Kuda Huraa resort.
According to Four Seasons, six world champions including Australians Mark Richards and Layne Beachley will be among the surfers competing for US$25,000 in prize money as part of the Four Seasons Resorts Maldives Surfing Champions Trophy.
The tournament, which will be contested later this year from August 29 to September 5, will be hosted in conjunction with travel provider Tropicsurf and see three different generations of surf disciplines including Single Fin, Twin Fin and Thruster being contested.
According to the event organisers, the decision to host the tournament in the Maldives highlights the growing regard for the country as a major surf destination that it claims offers some of the “most impressive, consistent and warmest swells.”
Four Seasons said it will also be offering special packages for guests to visit Kuda Huraa and take in the competition from both land and sea.
More information on the tournament can be found here.