By Deng Eric, Thursday, July 27, 2017
Cameroon Journal, Yaounde – President Paul Biya has decreed two days of national mourning in memory of soldiers who lost their lives in a shipwreck that occurred off the coast of Bakassi peninsula, South West Cameroon on July 16. The presidential decree signed July 27 states that the national flag will fly at half-mast all over the national territory and in all Cameroon embassies and consulates abroad.
The military boat code named “Le Mudemba” belonging to the Cameroon elite corps BIR on a supply mission to Bakassi overturned with 37 persons on board. Only three soldiers are said to have been rescued following a press statement from the country’s defense Minister Joseph Beti Assomo. He said the military vessel was struck by sudden strong waves. Two corpses were pulled out of the waters four days later.
Colonel Henri Belinga, Commander of the Coast Guard sector of the Rapid Intervention Battalion has said severe weather and strong waves make it impossible for the rescue team to retrieve more bodies from the vessel which is 40 metres underwater. He said the team of deep sea divers carrying out the rescue operation was still struggling to break open the main door of the vessel where it is believed most of the corpses could be found.
He explained that a security cordon had been created around the area where the ship has been located to prevent waves from sweeping the corpses away. However, the Cameroon Journal gathered that more corpses of the thirty two (32) that remained trapped under the water have been pulled out, though the exact number remains unknown.
The Bakassi peninsula remains a site of some tension in Cameroon. It was the source of a decade-long border dispute with Nigeria but Nigeria ceded the oil rich peninsula to Cameroon in 2008 following a ruling by the International Court of Justice.
Joseph Beti Assomo, Minister Delegate at the Presidency in charge of defense will this Friday July 28 preside over a ceremony at the 201 air base in Douala to pay tribute to the shipwreck victims on the instructions of the Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Arm Forces Paul Biya. The Minister will covey the Head of State condolences to the families of the victims and the corpses already removed from the vessel will be handed over to the families for burial under military supervision.