At least 103 individuals, including children, lost their lives when a boat returning from a wedding capsized in northern Nigeria, officials reported on Tuesday.
The incident occurred on Monday on the Niger River in the Pategi district of Kwara state, situated approximately 160 kilometres (100 miles) from Ilorin, the state capital. The boat, already overcrowded, was carrying numerous passengers who were returning from the wedding celebration. Police spokesman Okasanmi Ajayi confirmed that 100 people had been rescued at the time of his statement.
According to local chief Abdul Gana Lukpada, the victims were primarily relatives from various villages who had attended the wedding and continued their festivities late into the night. Due to heavy rainfall that flooded the road, they had arrived at the ceremony on motorcycles but were compelled to depart via the locally made boat.
Lukpada explained, “The boat was overloaded, carrying nearly 300 people. While they were en route, the boat struck a large log in the water, causing it to split in two.”
The wedding had taken place in the neighbouring Niger state village of Egboti, revealed resident Usman Ibrahim. As the accident transpired at 3 a.m., it took several hours before the news reached many individuals.
Local villagers near the scene immediately rushed to assist and were able to rescue approximately 50 individuals initially. Lukpada described the initial rescue efforts as slow and challenging.
Efforts to recover more bodies from the river, one of Nigeria’s largest, were ongoing as of Tuesday afternoon. Police spokesman Ajayi confirmed that the rescue operation would persist throughout the night until Wednesday.
According to locals, this tragedy marked the deadliest boat accident witnessed in the region in many years.
By Tuesday evening, all the bodies that had been recovered thus far were laid to rest, mostly near the river, in accordance with local customs, Lukpada informed.
Kwara Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq’s office released a statement expressing condolences to the families of the deceased and assuring that ongoing rescue efforts would continue to be closely monitored.
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Boat accidents are unfortunately common in numerous remote communities across Nigeria, where locally constructed vessels are frequently utilized for transportation. Most of these accidents are attributed to overloading and the use of poorly maintained boats.