Dozens of people are missing after an overloaded boat carrying about 200 passengers sank Wednesday in the Niger River in the northwestern state of Kebbi.
The boat left central Niger state and was heading to Kebbi when it split and sank, Abdullahi Buhari Wara, administrative head of Ngaski district said. The wooden boat had about 200 passengers on board, while previous reports said 160.
"Bodies are still being recovered. We can't ascertain the number for now," said Yahaya Sarki, a spokesperson for the governor of Kebbi.
One survivor, Buhari Abubakar, said about 40 people have been rescued so far, though many of the other passengers, mostly women and children, are still missing.
Five bodies were recovered as of Wednesday evening, though local people expect more to wash up in the coming days, said Qasimu Umar Wara, a Wara resident.
"The boat was overloaded, he said. "My brother is among those missing. This is the worst boat accident that has happened in this water."
Many of the passengers were returning from a newly-discovered gold vein in Niger, Wara said.
"They usually go there in the evenings and return to Wara in the morning," he said. "Most of them are petty traders, food vendors and the local miners."
Boat capsizings are common on Nigerian waterways mostly due to overcrowding and lack of maintenance, particularly in the annual rainy season.
Wara blamed the Kebbi accident on overloading as the boat was not meant to ferry more than 80 passengers.
The vessel was also loaded with bags of sand from a gold mine, the official said.
Early this month 30 people drowned when an overloaded boat capsized in central Niger state.
The boat ferrying 100 local traders split into two after hitting a stump during a storm as they were returning from a local market, according to emergency officials.
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