Woman gives birth on a boat while waiting for emergency assistance

With additional reporting by Daniel Bosley

A woman has given birth on a boat traveling from Naifaru to Malé early this morning, after the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) were unable to provide immediate emergency assistance.

The MNDF have confirmed that they were contacted by the boat at around 3am while it was located near Gaafaru, on the northern side on Malé atoll.

“Our vessel was engaged in another operation – we have five or six to handle every day,” explained Deputy Spokesman Captain Ali Ihusaan. “We attempted to guide the boat into Gaafaru but the captain said the channel was too narrow.”

The MNDF Coast Guard was unable to send assistance because it had only one vessel in Malé at the time – a fire launch normally reserved for fire-related incidents.

“The real delay was getting a doctor ready to go,” said Ihusaan. “If we go without professional medical care and the condition worsens, that’s a whole different situation.”

According to Vnews, both the mother and baby were weak when they reached Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital and, while the mother is now in good health, the baby is said to be having breathing difficulties.

The woman was reportedly travelling to Malé after being advised to do so by doctors in Naifaru, Lhaviyani atoll, due to possible complications which may occur at birth.

The Ministry of Health’s 2014 health profile had noted that the recent strengthening of emergency obstetric care at the atoll level has included the upgrading of atoll level health centres to hospitals.

Maternal mortality rates in the Maldives were recorded at a record low of 13 per 100,000 live births in 2012 – ahead of both the Millenium Development Goals target of 125, and the Health Ministry’s own Health Master Plan which aimed to reduce the number to less than 50 by 2015.

Vnews reported that the husband contacted Minister of Defense and National Security Mohamed Nazim as well, to which he responded saying he was trying find a way to provide assistance.

“I told MNDF officials that if anything happens to the baby or mother they should take responsibility for that. But they spoke in a very rude manner saying ‘what taking of responsibility [are you talking about]’ and that there wouldn’t have been any problems if you left earlier,” Vnews quoted the husband as saying.

The MNDF spokesman told Minivan News that the service’s night staff are well trained and used to handling “emotional” callers, suggesting that the husband’s recollection of the conversation would have been affected by his “agitated” state.

After the mother’s condition started worsening, her husband called the Marine Police for assistance. They were on their way when she gave birth on the boat – reportedly assisted by her husband and two family members.

Marine police reached the boat near Kuda Bandos island, following which the mother and baby were transferred to the police speed boat.

After coming across the Coast Guard vessel – which had completed its previous operation – on their way to Malé, the physician and nurse with them came aboard the police boat and provided medical assistance until they reached the capital.


Two arrested for giving death threats to police officer

Police have arrested two men on the island of Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll on suspicion of giving death threats to a police officer.

According to police, the two men – aged 28 and 30 – allegedly threatened the officer while he was inside a restaurant on the island.

Police said that the 28 year-old suspect has a previous record for participating in an illegal gathering, encouraging others to participate in an illegal gathering and a drug related offense.  The 30 year-old suspect meanwhile has a record for using forged US dollars, robbery and drug related charges, according to the police.


Two arrested for abusing minor and posting footage

Police have arrested two persons in connection with a case where two men sexually abused a minor, filmed her and then leaked the video online.

According to the police the case was reported on August 20, 2013.

Police stated that the pair were both aged 27 and were arrested on 24 August while on the island of Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll.

Naifaru Magistrate Court has extended their detention period to 15 days.


Met Office issues weather warning, advises against sea travel for next 24 hours

The Maldives Department of Meteorology (Met Office) has issued a ‘yellow warning’ advising the public against travelling by sea where possible, due to concerns about adverse weather conditions expected across the country for at least the next 24 hours.

The notice, posted on the Met Office website, stated that showers and thunderstorms were expected throughout the day – with average wind speeds of between 30 to 37 miles per hour. Stronger winds are also predicted as between Lhaviyani Atoll and Thaa Atoll, according to authorities.

With the Met Office predicting wind speeds could reach up to 55 miles per hour in parts of the country over the next 24 hours, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has urged anyone considering sea travel to notify the coastguard before embarking on their journey.

MNDF Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem today told Minivan News that authorities had not been notified of any major incidents at sea resulting from the current weather conditions. However, Colonel Raheem urged everyone travelling by boat to take precautions nonetheless.

“We would ask anyone planning on travelling to check conditions with the coast guard as the sea is rough right now,” he added.

The MNDF Coast Guard has also encouraged members of the public to contact its toll-free number by calling 191 to get more information on suitable times for their journey.

Authorities have previously requested that vessels also contact the coastguard when embarking or returning from longer distance journeys during adverse weather conditions.

Local media reported that the MNDF has asked the public to pay attention to ensure cargo ships carry lighter loads under the current conditions, while checking vessels are equipped with sufficient life jackets and drainage facilities.

Met Office spokesperson Hussein Waheed was not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.


MNDF assists with relocation of Maafilaafushi island residents

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has today continued with efforts to relocate families on the island of Maafilaafushi in Lhaviyani Atoll, local media has reported.

MNDF officers began assisting with the transfer of families to the island of Naifaru yesterday (July 10) at the request of Lhaviyani Atoll Council.

MNDF officials have told Sun Online that the ongoing transfer of the estimated 80 people living on Maafilaafushi was expected to continue on Saturday (July 13).  The military also thanked islanders for their cooperation.

Local media has reported that the decision to transfer residents to nearby islands in Lhaviyani Atoll had been taken after the government declared Maafilaafushi an inhabited island.

The office of Lhaviyani Atoll Council and MNDF Media Officer Captain Abdulla Ali were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

In 2011, the former government began discussions on transferring the population of Maafilaafushi – then estimated at around 100 residents – to other islands.

Local Newspaper Haveeru reported at the time that residents on Maafilaafushi, which was used by the MNDF for training, had demanded to be relocated due to military exercises conducted on the island.


Missing five year-old boy found dead in Lhaviyani Atoll

Police have said that a five year-old boy reported missing from Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll has been found dead this morning as investigations continue into the exact cause of death.

The Maldives Police Service said that the child’s body was discovered at 1:20am today in the lagoon of Naifaru. The boy has since been identified by law enforcement officials as Hassan Javid Ibrahim of Muleeha house in Naifaru.

Officers from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and the police joined islanders in searching for the boy after his family reported that he had gone missing at 1:30pm.

Search teams began searching the island’s lagoon for the boy after the child’s slippers were discovered drifting in the local waters at about 4:15pm, police have said.

An islander from Naifaru who spoke to Minivan News on condition of anonymity said that the boy’s mother was believed to have sent the child to the island’s harbour to see if his dad returned from fishing.  The islander said that the boy did not return.

According to the source, the child was last seen at 3pm the same day near the harbour area of the island, where it had been raining at the time.

The islander said they believed that the person who had saw the child may not have known at the time that he was missing, or perhaps did not understand the severity of the situation.

The same source claimed that once the body of the child had been recovered, there appeared to be no visible injuries.

With investigations into the case continuing, Police  Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef today told Minivan News that it was not yet possible to speculate on the potential cause of death.

“We will inform the media after concluding the investigation,’’ said Haneef.


Heavy rains flood Lhaviyani Atoll

Heavy rains have caused flooding on Naifaru and Hinnavaru in Lhaviyani Atoll, damaging some houses.

According to councils from both islands, many roads are flooded while houses and property have been damaged by the rain, which began last night.

The rain continued until 6:30 am today.

Members of the police and defense forces, as well as council members and local residents are working to drain certain areas, Haveeru reports.


Second crocodile discovery raises enclosure issue

A second crocodile found in as many months within Maldivian waters is currently being held by police as they look for a “safe area” to keep the animals, with one expert suggesting that investment in the creatures’ protection could have mutual benefits for local people and the tourism industry.

Maldives-based marine biologist Verena Wiesbauer Ali has suggested that although crocodiles may remain a rare presence in the Maldives’ tropical atolls, investment in providing them with a safe enclosure in the country could pay off as a popular attraction for wildlife lovers.

The claims were made as police confirmed that a six-foot crocodile was found yesterday near the waters of Naifaru in Lhaviyani Atoll by a fishing boat crew, following on from the apprehension of a four-foot croc by authorities last month in Thaa Atoll.

The Lhaviyani Atoll crocodile is thought to be the third such creature of its kind to have been captured in Maldivian waters and the second to be discovered this year alone, with one marine biologist calling the appearance of the animals a “surprising” and rare occurrence within the country.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the crocodile was found in local waters at about 2pm yesterday afternoon and was now being kept in the local police station near where it was found in Lhaviyani Atoll, while the police service consulted the environment ministry on the best course of action.

“We will hold the crocodile until we can find a safe area to keep it,” he said. “We will look at ways to keep the animal without having to kill it, which would remain one possible option.”

Shiyam said that it was currently in talks with environment experts about whether there was a growing chance of crocodiles likely to be found in the country’s waters.

“At this moment we are not sure yet [how common they are expected to be],” he added.

Although not professing to be a crocodile expert, Verena Wiesbauer Ali, a marine biologist and environmental consultant for local company Water Solutions, told Minivan News that although species such as saltwater crocodiles were common in India, it was “quite surprising” to find them in the atolls of the Maldives.

Wiesbauer claimed that she believed it would probably be these saltwater crocodiles that have been most recently discovered in the Maldives and although they are rare, the public should be careful.

“It is good that the police have taken the animals. They are of course dangerous, particularly after having potentially travelled such a long way. They could be hungry,” she said. “The best thing for people who come across a crocodile in the Maldives is to get out of the water and call the police.”

According to Wiesbauer, the major issue for police holding the animals will now be to find places to keep the crocodiles while also letting them”live in dignity” – options that she claimed are currently limited in the Maldives.

The last previous reptilian stranger to be found in the Maldives, a nine foot-long crocodile called ‘Kimboo’, is currently kept in the Kudakudhinge Bageecha (children’s park) in Male’, after it was caught by Maldives National Defence Force cadets in 1998.

In July 2010, students at Billabong High School in Male’ launched a campaign to ‘Save Kimboo’, due to the small size of its enclosure and poor treatment.

Kimboo occasionally makes it into local media and even has his own Facebook page calling for his release, but so far nothing has eventuated.

Wiesbauer said that although Kimboo’s cage was kept clean, she believed it was far too small for an animal of its size to now be kept.

The marine biologist said by comparison that all three creatures may therefore benefit from potential government or private investment into a special enclosure within the country that could be of interest as an attraction for local people and tourists.

Wiesbauer claimed that she is already considering putting together proposals for the government to consider the possible development of an enclosure in an area such as Villingili in North Male’ Atoll where huge areas of government land currently remain unused.

“It may be a bit utopian, but we have to think about these creatures welfare now they are here,” she added. “The creatures should not be killed, either they should be protected in an enclosure or they should be exported to zoos in countries like Sri Lanka or India. But who would pay for this service?”