Safety steps heightened for religious holiday on Seychellois island following deadly boat accident last year

Officers will be boarding and inspecting vessels travelling between the three main islands of Seychelles for the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on La Digue, local authorities said on Wednesday.

Security measures are being tightened for this year's festivities as a result of a boating accident last year. Three people died when a boat carrying six passengers capsized and sank while travelling from La Digue to Praslin, the third- and second-most populated islands respectively.

The Seychelles Maritime Safety Administration (SMSA), coast guard, police and Port Authority will be patrolling and ensuring security at sea during the religious holiday that will take place on La Digue on August 15.

Boat operators going to La Digue on private vessels should be ready to have their boats stopped and boarded for inspections, where officers will check if the number of passengers on board is in accordance to the boat's allowance, said Captain Joachim Valmont, the Director General of SMSA.

Officers will also be checking to see if there are enough life jackets for the number of passengers onboard and if boat operators are under the influence of alcohol. Should the boarding officer notice any irregularity, they will be asked to return to their point of departure and possibly escorted back, said Valmont.

The director urges boat operators to have the necessary documents at hand to produce to boarding officers.

Hundreds of people from Mahe and Praslin will be converging on La Digue from this weekend to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the Patron Saint of the island on Tuesday. It is usually a weekend packed with activities up until August 15.

The Seychelles Port Authority has said that as of Friday, August 11 to Tuesday, August 15 the authority will be closing vehicle access to the ports on Praslin and La Digue.

This is to give priority to those travelling by sea and ensure that their safety will come first, said Ronny Alcindor, the Port Environment Safety and Security manager at the authority.

The police will be increasing their presence on La Digue by bringing more officers from the main island, Mahe.

Police spokesperson Jean Toussaint said that they will have all the necessary equipment at hand to ensure that drivers will not be operating vehicles under the influence of alcohol.

Toussaint said the marine police will deploy two vessels. He also emphasized that individuals should take his or her own responsibility.

"With regard to children, personal belongings and their homes, we recommend that one or two family member(s) stay at home to ensure that they do not become victims of crime, added Toussaint.

All boat operators are asked to follow existing regulations by informing the port of their departure, the expected time of return and the number of passengers they have on board. This will help relevant authorities better manage and control travel between the islands.

Lifeguards, Red Cross and officers from the Seychelles Fire and Rescue Services Agency will also be present on La Digue.

Source: Seychelles News Agency

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