In a devastating incident, a boat transporting wedding guests capsized in northern Nigeria, resulting in the tragic loss of at least 103 lives, including children, officials confirmed on Tuesday.
The ill-fated incident occurred on Monday morning on the Niger River in the Pategi district of Kwara state, located approximately 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the state capital of Ilorin.
The boat, which was overcrowded, was returning from a wedding ceremony held in the neighboring Niger state.
Local authorities, as well as residents and police, are currently engaged in an ongoing search operation for dozens of individuals who were aboard the boat.
So far, 100 people have been successfully rescued, according to police spokesman Okasanmi Ajayi.
Abdul Gana Lukpada, a local chief, revealed that most of the victims were relatives from various villages who had attended the wedding and celebrated late into the night.
Lukpada explained that due to heavy rainfall, flooding rendered the road impassable, prompting the guests, who had arrived on motorcycles, to rely on the locally made boat for their return journey.
Tragically, the overloaded boat struck a large log in the water, causing it to split into two, leading to the devastating loss of lives.
News of the accident took hours to spread as it occurred at 3 a.m., shared Usman Ibrahim, a resident of the area. Upon learning of the incident, nearby villagers swiftly rushed to the scene and managed to rescue approximately 50 individuals initially. Lukpada described the initial rescue efforts as slow and “very difficult.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, search operations were still underway, with officials and locals tirelessly scouring the river, which is one of Nigeria’s largest. Ajayi, the police spokesman, confirmed that the rescue mission would continue throughout the night and into Wednesday.
Local residents expressed that this was the deadliest boat accident they had witnessed in many years.
Lukpada shared that all the bodies recovered thus far had been laid to rest, mostly near the river, in accordance with local customs.
Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq of Kwara state expressed profound sadness for the families affected by the tragedy.
The governor’s office released a statement stating that he continues to closely monitor the ongoing rescue efforts and search for any possible survivors.
Boat accidents are unfortunately common in numerous remote communities across Nigeria, where locally constructed vessels are frequently utilized for transportation.
The majority of these accidents are attributed to overloading and the use of poorly maintained boats, highlighting the need for improved safety measures in these areas.