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Cause of Capsized Boat in Cameroon Still Unknown


Nigerian officials say they are still seeking information about reports that more than 60 people drowned when an overcrowded boat capsized in Southwestern Cameroon on Saturday. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports for VOA that most of the victims were believed to be Nigerians.

It was business as usual Tuesday at the Oron beach in the southeastern state of Akwa Ibom, the final destination of the capsized wooden motor boat.

Fishermen and boats ferrying passengers and merchandise were busy at work, adding to intensity of the atmosphere.

A local reporter, Chude Ekansoki, who visited the beach told VOA that local officials claim they were yet to be briefed.

"We just met with the immigration authorities [in Oron] and they said the whole thing is a rumor as they have not been able to confirm it," he said. "A top official there said they are waiting for confirmation from the Nigerian consul in Duola, to confirm the boat mishap."

According to local reports, there were only 15 survivors from the incident, which occurred late Saturday off the Cameroonian coast.

More than 60 bodies were buried in mass graves by the Cameroonian authorities on Sunday.

Eye witnesses say the boat had left the village of Tiko, and was ferrying passengers and cargo to Oron in neighboring Nigeria.

Ekansoki says a great deal of trade takes place between the two countries, involving the use of boats.

"They [traders] move from Oron here to Cameroon where business gives them a lot of profit. Also, there is a kind of soup they eat here called Akpan, they get the leaves from Cameroon," he said. "So, boat is very important for them to move from Oron beach here to Cameroon."

It is not clear what may have cause the incident. Boats are often heavily overloaded with passengers and cargo, making them susceptible to accidents.

More than 120 people went missing last March when a wooden boat packed with passengers and goods sank in heavy seas. The boat was traveling from Nigeria to Gabon.