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Coronavirus fear: Chinese captain throws Tanzanians into shark infested waters

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The MV Top Grace bulk carrier which police intercepted.

A Chinese ship captain and his crew have admitted to throwing two Tanzanians into shark-infested waters over fears of catching the coronavirus from them

According to Daily Mail, Cui Rongli watched as his crew made a makeshift raft from rope, plastic drums and plywood before dumping the duo overboard in waters off the coast of South Africa. Reports indicate that they were dumped near the mouth of the Tugela River, which is infested by sharks.

The two Tanzanians identified as Amiri Salamu, 20 and Hassani Rajabu, 30 were given life jackets and two bottles of water and told to paddle with their hands to land.

READ ALSO: Stowaway found dead in KQ plane’s landing gear

After three days and two nights with no food on the makeshift raft, the two washed up on the KwaZulu-Natal coast of South Africa, exhausted.

Horrified locals lend them a hand and they were rushed to hospital where paramedics said they were suffering from hypothermia, thirst and hunger.

Crew arrested

The two Tanzanian stowaways (both centre in green and red overalls) cast adrift at sea being taken by ambulance to hospital.

After news of their abandonment reached the South African Maritime Safety Agency, they contacted the ship, MV Top Grace via radio. When the ship docked at Richards Bay, police officers boarded and arrested the captain.

Appearing before the Durban Magistrates Court on April 17, the captain alongside six crew admitted to charges of attempted murder.  Rongli was fined Sh500,000 while the crew were fined Sh250,000 each.

The court heard that the two Tanzanians secretly boarded the ship at Durban by climbing the anchor chain. After the ship had sailed around 25 miles out to sea, the two stowaways appeared on the main deck.

The two alleged refused to reveal their nationality and were given food and isolated while the crew discussed what to do with them.

“The accused were wary of the men and asked them to wear face masks in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The police officers sent to intercept the ship. Photo: Courtesy.

“The men refused to wear the face masks so were put in a separate room as their COVID-19 status was unknown and there was a fear by the crew about the virus,” said National Police Authority spokesperson Natasha Cara.

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The court heard that the next day, the crew resolved to build them the raft and send set them off on their way.

READ ALSO: Garden where Kenyan Airways plane stowaway fell 3,500ft

“There were many mitigating factors and if the crew had wanted to be cruel they could have dropped them in the high seas much further out without life jackets,” the defence lawyer argued.

The stowaways were detained by immigration authorities awaiting COVID-19 test results and could face criminal charges.  It is believed the ship was allowed to sail back to China.





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