ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — A boat capsized in north-central Nigeria early Sunday, killing at least two dozen people and leaving many others missing amid a frantic rescue effort, emergency officials said.
The victims, mostly women and children, drowned while travelling on the wooden boat in the Nigerian state of Niger in the Mokwa district.
The boat was carrying more than 100 passengers, according to Zainab Sulaiman, head of Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency in the state, suggesting that the death toll could be much higher as local divers searched for survivors.
“So far, they retrieved 24 corpses … and rescued 30 people,” Sulaiman told The Associated Press.
The capsizing on the Niger River happened in the Gbajibo community, located 251 kilometers (156 miles) from Minna, the state capital.
Boat disasters are common in many remote communities across the West African nation where locally made vessels are commonly used for transport. Most incidents are attributed to overloading amid the absence of good and accessible roads in most affected areas.
The latest victims had been resettled from the area where the Jebba dam is located and were returning to their farmlands in their former communities when their boat capsized, according to Ibrahim Audu, spokesman for the Niger State emergency services.
It wasn't immediately clear what caused the boat to capsize, though Audu pointed to overloading, the condition of the boat or a hindrance of the boat’s movement along the water as possibilities.
The tragedy on happened three months after one of Nigeria's deadliest boat disasters in recent years in which more than 100 people were killed. Most of the water and transportation reforms which authorities promised at the time haven't been carried out.