Bulker held in quarantine at La Reunion

Jun 15, 2005
Author: P&S

Amidst fears that the ship may be the bearer of the dreaded Marburg virus, French authorities on the island of La Reunion are enforcing a strict ‘no-go’ zone around the quarantined bulker Clipper Lancaster.

The Bahamas-flagged vessel of 28, 429-dwt has been at anchor in the bay of St Paul, La Reunion since arriving from Durban last week. Shortly after departing Durban, where the vessel had taken bunkers and supplies, one of the 22 seafarers on board reported that he was ill. His condition rapidly deteriorated and he died within a matter of days while the ship was still between the South African coast and the Mascarene islands.

During this time a second sailor also became ill with similar symptoms but his condition has since stabilized, although he remains in a serious condition.

A medical team from the island went on board to take tissue and blood samples which have been sent to France for analysis. As of today the results are not known and authorities say the ship will remain under quarantine in the St Paul bay for at least another day.

Clipper Lancaster has been operating along the African coast since at least April, and has made calls in East Africa, South Africa and, most significantly, to Angola and Congo Brazzaville (Pointe Noire).

Angola is the scene of a large outbreak of Marburg hemorrhagic fever, with 423 cases having been reported by 7 June, of which 357 have proved fatal. The centre of the outbreak is in the northern inland town of Uige but there have been cases reported elsewhere in Angola. Pointe Noire lies to the northwest of Uige.

Symptoms of the illness are high fever, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing and in some cases, bleeding. The incubation period is usually between 5 and 10 days but has been known to take up to 20 days to develop. There is no known cure or vaccine.

Meanwhile port authorities in Durban are establishing the identities of everyone who had contact with the vessel when she called at Durban on 4 and 5 June. Port manager Basil Ndlovu said the ship had complied with normal procedure of obtaining free practique, which indicates that all are well and healthy on board the ship 72 hours ahead of arrival.

He said that as a precautionary measure the two marine pilots who attended Clipper Lancaster were being sent for full medical evaluation.


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