Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sri Lankan pilgrims die when boat capsizes

Boat capsizesEleven Catholic pilgrims died when their overcrowded boat capsized on Sunday in southwestern Sri Lanka as they travelled to a procession in honour of Our Lady of Good Voyage.

The tragedy took place off the coast near Katukurunda as the vessel was taking part in a procession in the sea on the Day of Our Lady of Good Voyage, protectress of fishermen.

Attempts by people on other boats to rescue the passengers were unsuccessful. Three children were among the dead.

As in other years, hundreds of people, Catholics but also Buddhists, joined in the fishermen's celebrations.

After Mass in the Church of Saint Lazarus in Beruwela, around 60kms south of Colombo, the faithful set sail on 20 boats, including one with the statue of Our Lady (Sindathri Deva Maatha Feast) decorated for the occasion.

Witnesses told police that "the boat capsized as it was turning. It was not equipped for the trip and lacked minimum safety conditions."

Although it could carry at most 25-30 passengers, witnesses said that "more than 40 people were on board, but no one knows for sure the exact number."

One survivor told AsiaNews that "the tradition of gathering on boats to ask the Virgin for protection ahead of the fishing season is well established. This year a priest, Fr Kennedy, came from Negombo parish. He co-celebrated Mass with the parish priest, Fr Chaminda Roshan."

The boat upturned as the blessing of the boats was still going on, after the third Hail Mary of the Rosary.