ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — More than 70 people were missing on Monday after a boat capsized in northern Nigeria, according to authorities who deplored the frequent deadly boat accidents in Africa’s most populous country.
The boat was carrying traders returning from a fish market in Taraba state’s Ardo-Kola district late Saturday when it capsized on the Benue River, which is one of Nigeria’s largest, the national emergency services said.
More than 100 passengers were on board and 14 were rescued, while 17 bodies have been recovered and 73 people are missing, Ladan Ayuba, head of Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, told The Associated Press.
Taraba Gov. Agbu Kefas called the accident a “monumental tragedy” and ordered the use of life jackets for boat passengers. “Our body of water, which is one of the longest in the region, should be a veritable source of wealth and not death,” the governor said, according to a statement issued Monday by his office.
Boat disasters are common in remote communities across the West African nation. This is the third involving more than 100 passengers in just four months. Most are attributed to overloading. Good, accessible roads are often lacking in those areas.
Authorities were investigating the cause of this accident, said Taraba police spokesperson Usman Abdullahi. Locals and fishermen were helping rescue agencies.
Abdullahi said he feared that the operation could last for days because the river is flowing at its highest level.
“We don’t even expect to get the bodies anywhere near here,” he said.