Macedonia: 15 killed in boat accident

Published: 7 September 2009 0:00 CET

Fifteen people died and five were injured after leisure boat "Ilinden" sank into the Ohrid lake, one of the major tourist sites in the south-west of Macedonia, Former Yugoslav Republic, on 5 September. The boat was carrying more than 60 tourists from Bulgaria; it was the biggest boat accident in Macedonia in recent decades.

The rescue operation was performed by Macedonian national rescue forces - the regional Crisis Management Center, police and emergency services from a local hospital. 23 Red Cross workers and volunteers from the Macedonian Red Cross (MRC) branch in Ohrid were at the scene giving first aid and psychological relief.

“We managed to react quickly,” says Sasko Tockov from the MRC branch in Ohrid. “Macedonian Red Cross water rescue teams had stopped their summer duties at all Ohrid beaches only four days earlier, so some of the rescuers were quickly remobilized for the disaster,” he said.

The Bulgarian Red Cross (BRC), in close cooperation with their colleagues in Macedonia, mobilized four of their members to provide advice and support to the Bulgarian tourists who survived the tragedy.

Psychosocial support

“It was a big accident,” says Tockov. “Communication and coordination of action with the state police and some other bodies was the most difficult in this operation. Our potential and resources were not well known to the local police. This accident served us all a lesson for better preparedness in coordination in future,” he said.

“Psychological aid was a vital element of this operation,” says Dr Nikolov, disaster management coordinator from the Bulgarian Red Cross who coordinated the operation from the Bulgarian side. “We established contact with the Bulgarian villages where most of the 50 people who had been rescued in the accident returned to. A BRC team of psychosocial workers is ready to go to the villages to support the families of the victims,” he said.