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Four sailors died on Wednesday when a major fire swept through a fishing boat undergoing maintenance in the central Mozambican port of Quelimane.
Two of the victims were Mozambican citizens, one was Spanish and the fourth was Indonesian.
The sole survivor is a Mozambican who is now under intensive medical care in Quelimane Central Hospital. The hospital director, Ladino Suade, told AIM that the survivor has suffered burns over 80 per cent of his body, and requires specialist treatment due to the severity of his injuries.
The dead and injured all worked at the cold stores of the company Krustamoz, a Mozambican enterprise under Spanish management, which operates fishing boats and processes fishery produce.
It took a major effort by the fire brigade, as well as fire-fighters from the port itself and from Quelimane airport to bring the blaze under control.
The Zambezia Provincial Director of the Sea, Inland Waters and Fisheries, Julio Bastos, urged the owners of boats to step up safety measures, and to ensure that fire extinguishers are in place on their vessels and are regularly maintained.
The Krustamoz boat ran into mechanical problems on the high seas, and put into port on Tuesday, according to crew member Mussafuri Chauri, who was not on board when the fire broke out.
“We arrived on Tuesday and unloaded the fish throughout the night”, said Chauri. “We were to remain onshore while soldering work was done to fix a hole in one of the accessories which allowed leaks during fishing”.
Chauri was critical of the company for its lax attitude to safety, and recalled that a few days before the fire, the Krustamoz managers had ordered the boat to go to sea, despite the bad weather gripping the Zambezia coast.
Chauri believed the fire broke out because the fuel tanks were not protected with material resistant to high temperatures, as should have been normal practice. It only took sparks from the soldering to fall into the lubrication channels to set off the blaze.
The ruined boats will now be taken to the Quelimane dry dock to check whether there is any possibility of repairing it.