Nigeria boat disaster kills 29, mostly children

Nigeria Nigeria.  By  (AFP)
DEC 1, 2021 LISTEN
Nigeria. By (AFP)

An overloaded boat carrying dozens of passengers, mostly children, capsized in northwest Nigeria, killing at least 29 and leaving another dozen missing, a state rescue agency said on Wednesday.

The tragedy on Tuesday in Kano state was the latest in a string of river transport accidents this year in Nigeria, where overcrowded boats, bad weather and lack of maintenance often contribute to waterway disasters.

"We are still searching for the remaining 13 bodies. Our men and local divers are in the river, hoping to recover the remaining bodies," Saminu Abdullahi, spokesman for Kano state's fire service, told AFP Wednesday.

"We recovered 20 last night and nine this morning. We hope to make progress."

Seven others had been rescued, he said.

Abdullahi said the boat was "meant to ferry 12 adults but the skipper had packed such a number of children onboard."

The children, most between the ages of eight and 15 from Badau village in Kano state, were on their way to Bagwai, a town on the other side of the river, for a religious ceremony.

Kano State Governor Abdullah Umar Gandje said the boat was carrying about 50 people and cargo when it capsized because of overloading.

His office put the death toll at 20 people, with another seven in hospital and eight rescued. It was not immediately clear why those figures differed from rescue officials' tally.

"I urge boats operators to always take the issue of overload very seriously," his statement said.

"They should know that they can still get profit without overloading their boats."

Last month seven girls aged between 10 and 12 drowned in neighbouring Jigawa state when their boat capsized.

In June, 13 people died in Sokoto state when a boat ferrying wedding guests capsized.

One of the worst recorded incidents was in May, when more than 150 people went missing after their wooden boat broke apart and sank on the Niger river.

The Niger is West Africa's main river, running in a crescent through Guinea to Nigeria's Niger Delta, and is a key local trade route for some of the countries.

Nigeria's National Inland Waterways Authority banned night-time sailing in the area but enforcement has been poor.

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