COLOMBO (AsiaNews): An boat overloaded with people taking part in a procession as part of the celebration of Our Lady of Good Voyage capsized on February 19 off the southwest coast of Sri Lanka claiming many victims.
Our Lady of Good Voyage is considered to be the protector of fishing people and ironically, the victims perished in the midst of their prayer for safety at sea. Eleven passengers, including three children, drowned.
As in other years, hundreds of people of mixed faith and none joined in the fishing people’s celebration.
After a Mass at St. Lazarus in Beruwela in Colombo, the gathering took to the boats. The statue of Our Lady was carried in the lead of the 20-boat procession.
Witnesses later told the police that the boat capsized as it was turning. It was not equipped for the trip and lacked minimum safety requirements.
Licenced to carry 30 people at best, witnesses said that more than 40 people were on board, but no one knows the exact number for sure. Rescuers recovered 11 bodies and 18 people were taken to hospital.
The tradition of gathering on the boats to ask the Virgin Mary for protection ahead of the fishing season is well established. The boat overturned as the blessing of the fleet was still going on.