More than 150 feared drowned in Nigeria boat tragedy
Published: May 27, 2021 04:38 PM
A general view of Nigeria Photo: VCG

A general view of Nigeria Photo: VCG

More than 150 people were feared drowned in northwest Nigeria on Wednesday after an overloaded boat ferrying passengers to a market sank in the Niger River, local officials said in a statement.

The boat was traveling between central Niger state and Wara in northwest Kebbi state when it sank, National Inland Waterways Authority local manager Yusuf Birma told reporters. 

"The boat capacity was not up to the 180 passengers it carried," Birma said.

"As we speak, only 20 people have been rescued alive, four dead confirmed while the remaining 156 people are still missing and they are believed to be underwater."

President Muhammadu Buhari said the accident was "devastating" and offered his condolences to families, though his statement gave no official total of the number of causalities.

Boat tragedies are common on Nigerian waterways mostly due to overcrowding, bad weather and lack of maintenance, but Wednesday's toll would be one of the deadliest recent accidents.

Birma said passengers were heading to a market in Malele in Borgu local government area of Niger state, when the boat sank an hour into the journey.

"The boat involved was a wooden boat which was old and very weak but these people (skippers) would not listen when we sensitized them to reduce the number of passengers they carry in their boats," he said.

Local district administrator Abdullahi Buhari Wara earlier blamed the accident on overloading as the boat was meant to ferry no more than 80 passengers.

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

Early in May 30 people drowned when an overloaded boat capsized in Niger state.

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