Two Chinese tourists were rescued by Coast Guard after their transparent seabed drifted out in the lagoon, and out into the sea. The tourists were found by cost guard air craft and rescued shortly after they were spotted. After being taken from the sea they were transported to ADK hospital for checkup. After checkup, they were released as their condition was good.
Adhaaran Prestige Vaadhoo Island Resort is just south of capital Male’ with a big lagoon and beautiful reefs much popular with Chinese guests. The approximate location of the guests when they were rescued would be 12 miles west north west of Vaadhoo.
If any lessons would have been learnt from the recent Huraa tragedy, it will shortly translate to policies and hopefully legislation which we currently do not have. However more relevant would have been a change in attitude to personal safety, even which cannot sprout up quickly. Reflecting on the Huraa tragedy and past such tragedies, here is a list of improvements which could be helpful.
Resorts could employ life guards to monitor the beaches full time because our tourism industry is rapidly changing with more arrivals coming from mainland China and the East which is very different from traditional European markets.
Some resorts even now do employ safety procedures like making guests wear life jackets on the journey to and from airport / resort which is a good thing. Although most resorts still overlooks this procedure, it could be a good improvement on personal safety issues.
Over the course of the last few years, we have lost quite a number of able bodied fishermen to sea at various work related accidents. Safety work regulation could make it a requirement for fishermen also to don proper safety gear at work.
Construction industry also needs tougher rules on safety. Currently the only guys who wear the hard-hats and safety shoes in a typical construction site will be expat contract workers whose only fear which makes them wear them is possible loss of insurance cover in an eventuality.
Although we do not have tall sky scrappers like the US, today 9th September 2011 is one of the saddest days in our nations history. Just like as the USA lost 3000 souls in their 9/11 tragedy, today we lost 5 people which is exactly the same percentage when US and our country’s population are compared. However our tragedy is not related to any war or global conflicts.
On behalf of all fellow resort workers we send our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and we wish them courage in this hard time. May Allah bless them and their loved ones, and make them rest in peace.
It happened in a most happy carefree setting which is repeated numerous times throughout the year in various parts of the country. Two Classes of Hiriya School (2nd girl’s school in Male’) went on a Fisheries science project to the island of BoduHuraa (near Four Seasons Kuda Hura) with some of their teachers and their late principal Mr. Ali Nazim. He is a strong swimmer and a swimming instructor as well. Over the course of the project, a group of about 8 girls somehow went in to a deeper part of the lagoon (8 feet depth) and shouted seeking help. Nazim managed to free some of the drowning girls and it appears that the remaining panic stricken teens somehow overpowered him reflexively and that appears to have been how the tragedy happend. The total body count of the tragedy is five including Nazim.
The tragedy has taken the whole country by surprise and the whole country is in mourning. Three official days of national mourning has been announced by the president and Health and Education ministry are conducting reviews of the whole situation to prevent repeats in the future.
It might have something to do with the proliferation and easy access to media, but almost every other day the sad news of a drowned or disappeared person is relayed in local news. Normally when a person goes missing in an island, the islanders comb the whole island sometimes for a whole week, during the same time authorities are notified who in their part scour the seas from the sky using hired aircraft. Sometimes the body washes up a few days later, and sometimes the search goes fruitless. Although not frequently attached with the grim story of such a fatality, the authorities do spend huge amounts of money on such search operations.
Prevention is indeed better than cure at which the tourism ministry is currently drawing up guidelines to tourism industry to incorporate safety guidelines at new resorts which will require more emphasis on safety. Same or more measures in these lines needs to be implemented in building/construction and fisheries industries where people work with dare-devil mentality. Its not particularly smart to be a daredevil, it pays to be precautions.
Perhaps one small help that we can use to do an effective search with minimal cost would be to use drone technology instead of hiring normal airplanes. There are drones which can do spectacular military strength photography from above, which can be very useful in situations like this at very reasonable prices. Such drones are sometimes used by oil exploration companies and environmental agencies to photograph massive areas cost effectively. One such drone technology available for civilian use was bought and used by Libyan rebels against Gaddafi forces on their march to Tripoli in the days prior to 23rd August, the day they stormed Tripoli. The system they used was called Aeryon Scout, a product of Cananadian company which was sold for a little less than what would cost to buy an “3 cylinder engine dhoni” (100k$ to 200k$)in our terms. If our forces opt for this technology in their search operations it surely will enable them to do more thorough searches of large areas of land and sea many times less expensive than current methods.
Two important and interesting stories in the tourism sector at the moment. The first is about the strike at Rangali (which has ended now) which is one of the better resorts in the country and another is an attempted robbery at Baros which left one attacker dead.. the investigation continues. Links to both stories are here….
On the first issue, the protesting staff alleges discrimination of pay which is very common practice in resorts and elsewhere. Generally if two workers are employed in the same position and one being an expatriate and another local, the chances are that the local will get less. Its quite common and has been an issue protested over many times in different resorts and other businesses in the past as well. Another issue the protesters claim is that the employer holding back service charge which the resort denies. Although the strike is called off now we understand that the resort agreed to raise the service charge to levels in other similar level resorts which means agreement that service charge has been manipulated.
Under the labour law employers are required to pay all but 1% of service charges taken from guests to staff and yet most resorts withhold part of this income. But for a Hilton branded resort to go to this low to profiteer at the expense legitimate incomes of the staff is unbelievable!
On the issue of the attempted robbery at Baros , one attacker is known to have died and its not clear the circumstance of the death. However it is known that there are head injuries and that the attacker was pulled out from lagoon while trying to make escape after a scuffle with the staff. Its the second time this year that the robbers have attacked resorts and this time they were just not lucky enough. Resorts have to come up with better policies to protect the island and be more vigilant as the robbers are getting more daring and dangerous with each attack. Ideally the solution to these problems could be through policing and judicial system. However with the government and opposition parties firmly locked at horns, any useful measures to overhaul the judicial, and penitentiary system could not be expected. Its also understood that most of the violent and dangerous crimes that happen in the country are committed by hardened criminals who are released to the community in the midst of their prison term for various flimsy reasons.
Guests drowning off the resort lagoons is becoming an alarming situation throughout the country. Its becoming more common now and almost every month we hear about a fatality of a guest or a few guests. However there doesn’t seem to be a realization of this problem in the tourism industry as something which can be acted or prevented upon. Just as any resort is perpetually concerned about the comfort, privacy or personal preferences of the guest, so shall a resort be concerned about the safety of the guest. In fact safety shall come first.
In all resorts, guests are free to swim anywhere around the island and whenever they want. However the snorkelling or diving gear is sometimes exclusively sold or rented by the dive shop which may or may not be operated by the resort. The majority of the dive shops in resorts are operated by third parties so its likely that the responsibility for the guests’ care and safety falls in between and no party really wants to take responsibility for this. However what is known as a fact is that diving and snorkelling gear is always rather a little bit expensive so sometimes guests bring their own snorkelling gear. Some travel websites and forums advice guest about this fact which doesn’t seem to have registered with resorts yet. Rates for hiring a snorkelling guide are per hour and not cheap because dive-shops and resorts all make an effort to run the operations with a streamlined workforce and bloated profit margins!
To overcome this tragic situation, resorts could in theory do implement a few of these following measures:
Employ full time life guards in the resorts. The guards shall be trained and equipped with rescue gear vessels etc.
Implement stubborn safety rules such as making it mandatory to wear buoyant safety vests on journeys to and from resort, airport, Male’ etc
Make sure that the guests are fully competent in swimming before lending them snorkelling gear and making a point of knowing if the guest needs additional help and providing them such help free of charge.
Have an arrangement or an understanding with dive-shops to lower the rates of basic snorkelling gear for novice guests or to provide a discount so as to encourage more guests to use appropriate gear and help of water sports folks.
Successful businesses count on being headstrong and stubborn! No amount of theorizing, preaching or advising will work on resorts. Employers or managements seldom need or read advices or recommendations. Its just the reality of running a resort which is tough, complicated and demanding work. Nobody really has the energy to do anything else after a hard day’s of work. So the only thing that can get the resorts attention seems to be legislation by law makers or purposeful action by the tourism ministry.