Saturday, June 19, 2021

Scores feared drowned after Nigerian river boat sinks

The boat was overloaded and broke in half as it was returning from a gold dig.

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Over 100 people are missing feared drowned in north-western Nigeria after a boat carrying about 200 broke in half and sank, officials say.

Most passengers were women and children travelling from Niger state to neighbouring Kebbi state.

One survivor said about 40 people had been rescued but it is unlikely that many more survivors will be found.

Local authorities told the BBC that 11 rescue boats and many divers were searching for about 138 missing passengers.

One passenger rescued from the boat, Shehu Bello, said five children were with him when the boat sank and all of them were still missing.

“Two of the children are mine, while the other three are the children of my brother,” he said.

He told the AP that the boat broke apart suddenly and then started to sink.

“Bodies are still being recovered. We can’t ascertain the number for now,” Yahaya Sarki, a spokesman for the governor of Kebbi, told Reuters news agency.

Abdullahi Buhari Wara, administrative head of Ngaski district said he blamed the accident on overloading, as the boat was meant to carry no more than 80 passengers.

The boat was also loaded with bags of sand from a gold mine, he said.

It was unclear what caused the boat to break up as it was travelling on the Niger River to the town of Wara in Kebbi state.

Qasimu Umar Wara, a resident of Wara town, said many of the passengers were returning from a newly discovered gold vein in Niger.

“They usually go there in the evenings and return to Wara in the morning,” he said. “Most of them are petty traders, food vendors and local miners.”

He said that five bodies had been recovered but many more are expected to wash up in the days ahead.

“The boat was overloaded,” he said: “My brother is among those missing. This is the worst boat accident that has happened in this water.”

Boat accidents along the River Niger are common with overloading a major cause, as well as collisions with tree trunks and other debris under the water.

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