- The majority of the 108 individuals who drowned after a boat broke apart were women and their children, according to survivors and local authorities.
- The ill-fated wooden boat was transporting over 250 people across the Niger River in Kwara state, as they were returning home from a late-night wedding.
- Accidents involving boats are not uncommon, often attributed to overloading and the use of poorly maintained vessels.
Most of the 108 people who drowned after a boat broke apart in north-central Nigeria were women and their children, survivors and local authorities told The Associated Press on Thursday as search efforts ended.
The wooden boat was carrying more than 250 people across the Niger River in Kwara state as they returned home from a late-night wedding when the craft hit a log and split early Monday, survivors said.
One of the survivors, Ibrahim Mohammed, said they carried some little children to shore, “but some of the women did not want to leave their children behind and they drowned.”
“Most of the women in that boat had children, (and a) majority of the people dead are women and small children,” Mohammed said. He said he rescued three children but lost nine child relatives.
Villagers ended the search operation Thursday afternoon, with the victims all buried near the river in accordance with local customs, he added.
At least 144 people survived the accident on the Niger River, which is one of Africa’s longest at about 2,500 miles. The boat was meant to carry about 200 people but was holding at least 250, said Mohammed Ibrahim Liman, chair of the Pategi district where the accident happened.
“People rushed to render help, but it was difficult to see the passengers considering how large the river was,” Liman told AP. As many as 68 of the dead were from one village, he said.
Boats are commonly used for transportation in Pategi and many other communities surrounded by water across Nigeria. Accidents involving them are common and are usually blamed on overloading and the use of poorly maintained vessels. A boat capsizing in May killed 15 people, including children.
Monday’s accident was one of the deadliest in Nigeria in recent years, authorities said.
As the villagers mourned, they called on authorities to improve the roads in the area as the preferred means of transportation.
“The lives lost are already gone. The government should do whatever it can do to help us,” said Muhammed Alhassan, who lost six family members in the accident.
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu has promised that his administration will look into the challenges of inland water transportation to ensure compliance with safety standards.
After visiting the Pategi district Wednesday, Kwara state Gov. AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq said the state would roll out more safety guidelines for water transportation.
“Our immediate step is to deliver at least 1,000 life jackets to support safe travel on water,” the governor said, according to a statement issued by his office.