Most of the 108 people who drowned after a boat broke up in north-central Nigeria were women and their children, survivors and local authorities told the Associated Press on Thursday as search efforts drew to a close.
The wooden boat was carrying more than 250 people on the River Niger in Kwara State on their way home from a late-night wedding when it struck a tree trunk and broke up early Monday, survivors said.
One of the survivors, Ibrahim Mohammed, said they had carried children to shore, “but some of the women didn’t want to leave their children behind, and they drowned”.
“Most of the women in the boat had children, and the majority of those who died were women and young children”, said Mr Mohammed. He said he had saved three children, but had lost nine children from his family.
The villagers ended the search operation on Thursday afternoon, and the victims were all buried near the river, in accordance with local customs, he added.
At least 144 people survived the accident on the River Niger, one of the longest in Africa at 4,100 km. The boat was supposed to be carrying around 200 people but contained at least 250, said Mohammed Ibrahim Liman, chairman of the Pategi district where the accident occurred.
“People rushed to help, but it was difficult to see the passengers because the river was so wide,” Liman told AP. He added that 68 of those who died were from the same village.
Boats are commonly used for transport in Pategi and many other communities surrounded by water in Nigeria. Accidents involving these boats are frequent and are generally attributed to overloading and the use of poorly maintained boats. In May, a boat capsized, killing 15 people, including children.
Monday’s accident was one of the deadliest in Nigeria in recent years, according to the authorities. As villagers mourn, they are calling on the authorities to improve the region’s roads, which are the preferred means of transport.
“The lives lost are already gone. The government should do everything in its power to help us”, said Muhammed Alhassan, who lost six members of his family in the accident.
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu promised that his administration would investigate the challenges posed by river transport to ensure that safety standards were respected.
After visiting Pategi district on Wednesday, Kwara State Governor Abdulrahman AbdulRazaq said the state would put in place more safety guidelines for river travel.
“Our immediate measure is to provide at least 1,000 life jackets to ensure safe travel on water,” the governor said, according to a statement issued by his office.
Source : Africanews