— as Venezuelan passenger boat explodes enroute to the Pomeroon
A Venezuelan passenger boat, heading to Charity on the Pomeroon River with 22 persons on board, caught fire and exploded off the Waini Coast on Sunday morning.
The boat, which departed the Bolivarian Republic around 04:30hrs on Sunday, caught fire as it headed for Charity on the Essequibo Coast.
Medical staff at the Mabaruma Regional Hospital reported on Sunday that 20 persons, including an elderly woman who was first rushed there for treatment, have been accounted for. Two persons died following the incident. One body has since been recovered.
Hospital staff told this newspaper that 13 women were taken to the hospital for treatment while the men stayed behind. Two persons, including an elderly blind man, Carlos Archer, is said to be one of the persons who is feared dead.
The man’s wife, 73-year -old Phylis Archer, was rushed to the Mabaruma Hospital earlier on Sunday for treatment. She sustained burns about her body and was later on Sunday evening air-dashed to the Eugene F Correia International Airport and then rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) for further treatment.
Archer told Guyana Chronicle from Mabaruma that she and her husband, along with a friend called “Sabrina”, left the Venezuelan town of San Felix on Saturday for a pick-up point close to the border.
She said that the boat departed from Venezuela around 04:30 hrs on Sunday and three hours later, she heard an explosion.
“The sun was hot and all I noticed was a ball of fire,” she related.
The woman said the choppy waters prevented her from grabbing her husband whom she noted is blind. “We were going down and I tried to hold onto him,” she said.
Archer, who lived in Venezuela for some eight years, said after the boat caught fire, the engines exploded and she held onto the sinking vessel.
She said she saw others trying to swim to shore which was a far distance from where the incident occurred. The elderly woman said she had already given up when she heard shouting and was taken into a rescue boat. She said she suffered severe burns to her body including her hands, feet, torso and face.
She was reportedly rescued by personnel working for the Protected Areas Commission who were stationed at Shell Beach. The Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard also raced to the scene.
Archer, who was headed to a relative at Petshop Street in Parika, East Bank Essequibo, said she made the trip on several occasions before and, according to her, she was returning permanently to Guyana with her husband.
On Sunday afternoon, the rescued women were taken to the Mabaruma Hospital for treatment. Hospital staff noted that the men may have stayed away from the medical institution for fear of immigration-related matters.
Almost weekly, the boats make the trip between Guyana and Venezuela and on most occasions, boat loads of Venezuelans and persons of Guyanese heritage make the trip here.
The trips have become a frequent occurrence ever since the economic woes in the neighbouring country took a toll on that country’s population.