Following the October 13 tragic ferry sinking incident that claimed the lives of 11 students, authorities in southeastern Kandal province’s Loeuk Dek district have issued an emergency order to all waterway service providers to have life jackets on board for all passengers at all times.
Three people have been sent to court for the incident, two of them being the boat service owners and one the actual operator.
The instruction also forbids service providers from engaging in the practice of overloading their craft with passengers or using very old and out of date transportation means.
On the night of October 13, a boat loaded with 13 students sank in Kampong Phnom commune’s Koh Chamroeun village. Only two students survived, along with the two boat operators, according to police.
District governor Chap Chanvithyea told The Post on October 16 that to ensure safety for passengers, the district now requires all waterway transportation services to carry enough life jackets for each passenger and ensure that their boat or ferry is in good condition and without holes or any signs of being in an old and deteriorated condition.
Ferries must also have lights to be used at night and the lights must comply with the technical standards for lights equipped on watercraft. All vessels must cease the practice of overloading.
“It is a tragedy that 11 students lost their lives, but this should remind us all to pay more attention to safety when travelling on the water by boat or ferry. We must all wear life jackets before getting on the boat or ferry or before it sets off.
Chanvithyea said three people have been sent to court to face legal action for the incident.
Meanwhile, the authorities have suspended the business operations of the family whose boat caused the tragedy and transferred their rights to another family in the same village who will now be responsible for transporting students to school.
The district governor said he personally bought and donated 20 life jackets to the new boat service operators as well as lighting equipment for the boat when travelling at night.
“For now, students in Koh Chamroeun village must still commute by boat to schools and farmers still use this boat service to transport crops to market. Now, we have permitted a local resident named Khiev Samphorn to be in charge of transporting these villagers,” he said.
Vy Chan Bora, 12, one of the two surviving students, requested that the authorities build a bridge crossing the canal from Koh Chamroeun village to Apil Teuk village to facilitate travel by students and villagers.
“Although now we have bigger boat and it’s safer than before, I still fear getting back in a boat to travel to school. I can remember the last boat sinking, when I thought I would die,” she said. “I tried to float my body on the surface of the water until I was rescued. But almost all of my friends have drowned. I want to see a bridge built there to make it easy for us to travel.”
The district governor said that in light of the request from the victims and their families, the district authorities have already picked out a location to build the bridge and the details of the plan have been submitted to the provincial administration for review and decision.
“As far as I know, the project is not under study by any joint working group at the national level. I think at the earliest, the project might break ground before the Khmer New Year next year,” he said, adding that the bridge would be about 100m long.
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport said it would soon issue instructions on safe transportation via waterway for schools which requires using boats or ferries to bring students to and from the facilities.