Authorities in the districts of Kayonza in Gatsibo and Rwamagana in the Eastern Province have warned residents living within the proximity of Lake Muhazi against use of substandard boats on the lake.
The warning follows an incident during the weekend where a passenger service boat was reportedly attacked by hippos, killing four people– all members of the same family.
The boat was carrying 12 people who were returning from a burial ceremony in Kiramuruzi Sector in Gatsibo.
Three bodies had by press time been recovered from the lake, while the Marine Service of Rwanda National Police was still searching for the fourth body of a 58-year-old woman.
The 12 passengers were all members of the same family in Munyiginya Sector, Rwamagana District.
The eight survivors were still undergoing treatment at Gakenke Health Centre by press time.
According to eye witnesses, the boat capsised when the marauding hippos attacked it about 100 metres from the shores.
Damascene Munyenshongere, one of those that arrived at the scene immediately after the incident to help rescue the passengers, said the village was still in shock.
“It was around 6p.m, I was waiting to receive my neighbours who had gone for burial. The boat was approaching the shores when, suddenly, a hippo emerged from behind and crushed it,” Munyenshongore said.
“It was a horrible scene. All the people were dumped out of the boat by the hippo. We struggled and miraculously saved eight. The next morning, we recovered four bodies, while one is still missing,” he said.
Residents, however, said they have been living peacefully with the hippos in the lake until the fateful day.
“We know these animals are deadly, but they rarely attack people. All they do is destroy crops on some occasions. We were, however, shocked with what they did. Imagine a family that was already mourning the loss of a relative to lose four more people at ago,” said Emmanuel Rizibiza, a frequent user of the water transport.
Meanwhile several mayors in the area districts said stern measures were to be taken to check accidents on the lake.
The Mayor of Rwamagana, Nehemie Nahimana, said the victims did not have life jackets.
“Boats that do not have engines, and safety gadgets like life jackets, will not be allowed to operate on Lake Muhazi anymore. We have a regrettable situation where people are still using traditional ways of transporting people. This must stop forthwith,” Nahimana said.
The same was echoed by his counterparts in Gatsibo and Kayonza districts.