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Chantier Naval Vessel Fails To Lift Sunk BIR Ship 

By Francis Tim Mbom

The use of a ship from the Cameroon Shipyard and Engineering Company Ltd (Chantier Naval) to pull out of the sea the sunk BIR Ship and facilitate the recovery of bodies of some 34 soldiers and civilians, was apparently abandoned on July 22.

Security sources monitoring the recovery efforts told The Post on Sunday, July 23, that the option for a Chantier Naval ship to tow the sunk vessel out of water had to be abandoned when it was observed that it could lead to huge damage in the process.

The sunk BIR ship is said to be some 40 to 50 meters under water and quite some nautical miles away from land.

The option to bring in a Chantier Naval vessel, The Post gathered, was because turbulent waves around the Debunscha waters where the BIR ship, Mundemba, sank on Sunday, July 16, have continued to slow down efforts employed by the marine service of the Cameroon army to recover the bodies of the missing 34 soldiers and about a dozen civilians.

The Deputy Commander of the Rapid Intervention Battalion, code-named BIR DELTA, at the Bakassi Peninsular, Lt. Colonel Hilaire Moussa, and two other lieutenants, were said to be among the 34 BIR soldiers reported to have been inside the ship that Sunday.

Two bodies were recovered on Wednesday, July 19, when divers began a frantic recovery effort. On Thursday, July 20, only one body was successfully retrieved.

The divers carrying out the recovery efforts are said to be some of the most experienced that Cameroon has. But their efforts on Friday, July 21, are said to have yielded no fruits, as not even one body was removed.

In a bid to hasten the recovery efforts, the expertise of Chantier Naval was sort on Saturday, July 22. But the deployment of one of their ships to tow the vessel was soon abandoned. The option to continue with divers was resorted to. But it is not clear how many more bodies were recovered on Saturday, July 22 and Sunday, July 23.

Cameroon has never suffered or experienced such a sea mishap and has not got the kind of equipment that can enable it to run a fast recovery operation at such depths.

Meantime, pundits hold that Cameroon should have sort for assistance from some advanced countries like France, or the US that she has military alliance with, in the Africa Partnership Station.

Lt. Colonel Moussa, the topmost ranked BIR officer who was onboard the ship, is said to have been appointed barely two weeks ago as the Deputy Commander of BIR DELTA. Thus, he was on his way to Bakassi, that Sunday morning, to take up duties in his new post.

Mishap struck barely two hours after they set sail from the Shipyard terminal in Limbe. His body is said to be among those that have been recovered so far.

The ship, christened Mundemba, is said to be one of two cargo ships that were bought for the BIR when Israeli-born Col. Sylvain Abraham was still the main Expatriate Coordinator of the BIR.

He died in November, 2010, following an army helicopter crash en route from Limbe to Yaounde.

Mundemba sailed off from the Chantier Naval oilrig repair yard in Limbe at about 4.00am on that Sunday.

It had on board 37 BIR soldiers and a few civilian contractors who were either drivers or other workers with the BIR. On board the ship were five trucks loaded with gravel and sand, a heavily loaded petrol tanker destined for the BIR and other Government services within the Bakassi area.

“It was a routine supply mission by this ship, because, it does two supply missions every month to the Bakassi area,” said one informant to The Post.

The Post gathered that when the ship set off from Cape Limboh, the waves were not the best because it had rained terribly in Limbe from July 14 through July 15 and 16.

A source told The Post that at the Debunscha end of the sea, some two hours after takeoff, a violent wave slammed against the vessel causing it to overturn as the weight of the cargo inside certainly tipped it off balance. Three soldiers, who were on guard on the deck are the only ones that survived the accident.

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