Angry residents burn tyres in protest as ferry tragedy kills 6 in Kinniya
COLOMBO – Six people including four children drowned when a ferry capsized in Kinniya, Trincomalee, in the Easter Province, in the early hours of Tuesday (23), leading to angry protests from locals over an unfinished bridge they claimed had led to the tragedy.
Police spokesperson Nihal Talduwa said 25 to 35 passengers had been on-board the ferry, which had been transporting residents and school children across the Kinniya lagoon by the Kurinjankarni bay.
Eight rescue teams deployed by the Sri Lanka Navy had rescued 20 persons by 3:00 p.m. and 17 of them were hospitalized with injuries. Talduwa said one child was in intensive care,
Navy divers had suspended rescue efforts late Tuesday, after searching the area of the lagoon where the rudimentary vessel overturned, but Talduwa said they will remain on standby.
It was not immediately known what caused the ferry to capsize, but both police and the navy blame it on overcrowding.
Ferry accidents are relatively rare in Sri Lanka because many locations are now connected by bridges. However, the bridge that connects the two towns has been closed for repairs, forcing people to use rudimentary vessels to cross the river, said Naazik Majeed, a social activist in Kinniya.
A foundation stone had been laid in April this year for a new bridge, but construction work was yet to materialize, broadcast media quoted Kinniya residents as saying.
A tense situation was reported in Kinniya following the incident Tuesday, with the public clashing with the police, while protesting against the incompetency of the authorities. News footage showed angry residents burning tyres outside the Kinniya Divisional Secretariat office. Local media reports said the Kinniya house of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) MP M.S. Thowfeek, had also been attacked by the residents.
The matter was also raised in Parliament on Tuesday morning by opposition MPs who called for compensation to be paid to the victims and their families.
MP Rauf Hakeem told Parliament that the ferry had been operating without a permit.
Opposition leader Sajith Premadasa said the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MP Nimal Lansa had laid the foundation stone to the proposed new bridge but no progress had been made.
“I ask that this task is completed soon,” he urged.
Premadasa also called for an investigation into the ferry’s operation.
“I would like to extend the sympathies of this house to the victims,” he said.