Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), whose members were the major victims of the Easter Sunday Rumphi boat tragedy, has put the number of the dead at 15.
The synod, whose figure of the deceased contradicts the official five presented by government officials, has also declared the accident a ‘Church National Disaster’.
In an interview yesterday, synod general secretary the Reverend Levi Nyondo confirmed the declaration of the ‘Church National Disaster’, saying in a situation where many people have died and others are missing, such an incident is automatically a national disaster.
He said the church believes 15 people died in the accident and that the figure of five presented represents those who have been identified. He said more bodies were still under water.
Nyondo said the synod has been affected spiritually, physically and statistically.
He said the victims will be buried in their respective home villages.
Nyondo added that at a date to be set, the church will organise a memorial service for the deceased.
Reacting to the synod’s declaration of ‘Church National Disaster’, Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) director for response and recovery Paul Kalilombe dismissed the church for making the declaration. He said such declarations are the preserve of authorities.
Said Kalilonbe: “Declaring such incidents national disasters rests with higher authorities.”
He also called on the synod not to rush into conclusion about the 10 missing people, saying it was too early to conclude they were dead as there is a possibility that they could have been washed to other areas alive.
Kalilombe maintained that the number of dead is five.
On funeral costs, Kalilombe said families in need of coffins were free to seek assistance from government. However, he said for the five confirmed dead, the families had already bought coffins and government reimbursed the expenses incurred.