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50 People Feared Dead in Nigeria Boat Accident


Search teams in Nigeria are continuing the search for survivors of a shipwreck Monday in the southern part of the country. From the Nigerian capital, Abuja, reporter Gilbert da Costa reports for VOA three bodies have been recovered, so far, from the waters where the boat capsized.

Eyewitnesses say as many as 50 passengers, mostly women and children, were packed on a boat designed to carry fewer people when it sank into the River Nun in remote Bayelsa state on Monday.

So far, only three bodies have been recovered but divers Friday still searched for more bodies.

Samuel Oyadongha, a journalist in Bayelsa, says overloading and bad weather caused the wooden boat, which ferried passengers and cargo to villages along the river, to capsize.

"The boat is a cargo boat that normally carries passengers, those going to markets," he said. "They stop in this community, drop load, more people will board and they move. They were going to Korokorosei when this tragedy struck at Angiama waterfront. They were just leaving the water front, the weather was stormy and the people were forced to drop the tarpaulin they used in shielding rain. So, when the boat was going down, they didn't even know the boat was sinking. All of sudden the thing [boat] just went down and they were all trapped inside."

Boats provide the most convenient and affordable means of transportation in the creeks and mangrove swamps of the Niger Delta. Many of the vessels are not seaworthy and are often overcrowded.

Oyadongha says the people are very much aware of the inherent risks but don't have much of a choice.

"To some extent, it is the peoples' way of life," he added. "Where you cannot access by road, you go by river. Whether safe or not, the people have no choice but to go on these boats."

Shipwrecks due to overloading are common in West and Central Africa. Some 60 people, mostly Nigerians, died at sea off Southwest Cameroon last month when their boat packed with passengers and cargo capsized on its way to Nigeria.

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