Police and villagers Wednesday rescued more survivors of a boat that capsized in the Niger River in northern Nigeria killing more than 100 people as they returned from a wedding.
Police spokesman Okasani Ajayi said at least 144 people have been rescued since the overcrowded boat capsized early Monday during a late-night trip in north-central Kwara state’s Pategi district. The district is 100 miles from Ilorin, the state capital.
The death toll stood at 106, including some children, he said.
It wasn’t immediately clear how some of the rescued passengers survived for two days after the accident. Ajayi could not confirm the number of people still missing but locals estimated the boat carried close to 300 passengers.
“People are still there,” he said of others believed to still be in the water.
Boat accidents are common in many remote communities across Nigeria, where locally made vessels are commonly used for transport, with authorities often blaming overloading and the use of poorly maintained boats for the accidents.
Monday’s accident was one of the deadliest in recent years, authorities said.
Most of those who drowned were relatives from several villages who attended the wedding held in the village of Egboti in the neighboring Niger state and partied late into the night, according to Abdul Gana Lukpada, a local chief. They arrived at the ceremony on motorcycles but had to leave on the locally made boat after a downpour flooded the road, he said.
As the boat moved through the Niger River, one of Africa’s largest stretching about 2,500 miles, it hit a log and split in two, said Lukpada. Most villagers were not aware of the accident until hours later because it happened around 3 a.m. he added.
Lukpada urged authorities to fix the roads in the district so that people won’t always resort to water transportation. “If our roads were good, this wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu directed officials to provide immediate relief and assistance to the survivors and families of victims. “That the victims were guests at a wedding ceremony made the unfortunate accident more painful,” he said, according to a statement issued by his office.
“President Tinubu promised that his administration would look into the challenges of inland water transportation in the country to ensure the matter of safety and operational standards are strictly adhered to,” the statement added.