Missing boat

One of the last pictures shared by group, that included MPs Ali Wario (Garsen) and his Galole counterpart Said Buya Hiribae, before they set for the humanitarian mission on a motorboat in River Tana.

| Stephen Oduor | Nation Media Group

Galole MP Buya Hiribae: Shortcut, lack of fuel got us stranded in flooded River Tana

What you need to know:

  • According to Galole MP Buya Hiribae, a shortcut they took led them the wrong way in the flooded river.
  • The 18 people who were in the boat have been accounted for and are safe from harm.

Two MPs and 16 other people who got lost in the flooded River Tana while on a mission to distribute relief food were rescued unharmed, authorities in Tana River County revealed on Sunday.

Garsen MP Ali Wario and his Galole counterpart Said Buya Hiribae disappeared on Saturday afternoon, throwing the region into a panic as rescue teams and security agencies were sent to search for them.

According to Mr Hiribae, a shortcut they took led them the wrong way.

Speaking to journalists yesterday, the relieved lawmaker described their ordeal as harrowing and their survival a matter of luck, given the raging waters of River Tana.

"We didn't know where we were. The river had broken its banks and all villages were flooded. So any route looked like a shortcut and that is where we got it wrong, " said Mr Hiribae.

The legislator said they could not risk a return trip to the main course as they were short of fuel and that would have been risky.

So, they waited, hoping for a miracle, until one of their phones miraculously got through to security agencies.

“Security agencies have established contact with a passenger in the boat that went missing earlier this evening in the waters of Tana River. All the eighteen passengers and crew are so far safe but are stranded at a yet-to-be-established location,” Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki posted on X, formerly Twitter, at 11pm on Saturday.

Garsen Member of Parliament Ali Wario (in pink T-shirt) and among those rescued during a rescue mission in the flooded River Tana on December 2, 2023. 

Photo credit: Stephen Oduor | Nation Media Group

“A multi-agency search and rescue mission spearheaded by the Kenya Coast Guard is underway overnight.”

Prof Kindiki would send out another tweet 12 hours later at 11am, saying: “The boat that went missing in the waters of Tana River has been found. All occupants have been evacuated to safety.”

Mr Hiribae thanked Prof Kindiki, as well as the concerted efforts mounted by the Ministry of Defence, the Kenya Navy and the Kenya Red Cross in ensuring their safety.

"It is not easy to survive River Tana at this time, but I am confident that our government is well prepared for similar emergencies based on the efforts we witnessed," the MP said.

By the time they were found, Mr Wario, was too emotional to speak, choosing to only rejoice in their rescue and their being brought back safely.

According to Tana River County Commissioner Mohammed Noor, the team were traced by a boat of men led by a village elder.

"They were somewhere near Mlima Abo, the GPRS [general packet radio service] was showing that they were 22 kilometres away from Garsen but, when we traced along the river, we could not see them," he said.

The county commissioner said two boats were dispatched in the river in search of the team in vain.

However, the third team managed to locate them manually.

Mr Noor revealed that all of the 18 people who were in the boat have been accounted for and are safe from harm.

"By the time we found them it was 4am and they had left the main course of the river to a different route where they stranded in the water," he said.