Many missing feared dead after boat sinks in Kebbi state

The boat was coming from Lokon Mina, a commercial town in central Niger state

Scores of people are missing feared dead in north-western Nigeria after a boat carrying about 180 broke in two and sank in a river, officials say.

Most passengers were women and children travelling from Niger state to neighbouring Kebbi state.

The exact number of people onboard when the boat capsized is not clear.

The National Emergency Management Agency (Nema) in Kebbi state, told the BBC that 22 passengers have so far been rescued.

Five bodies have been recovered, it said.

This is the second accident in the region this month, after at least 28 people drowned when their boat capsized two weeks ago in Niger state.

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The National Inland Waterways Authority (Niwa) that regulates water transport in Nigeria said the boat had 180 passengers when it sank.

Authorities are blaming the accident on overloading as the boat was also reportedly carrying bags of sand from a gold mine and motorcycles.

Divers and emergency workers were trying to save others in the Niger River, local officials told the BBC.

Ten boats and more divers have now joined the rescue operation, Mr Dododo said.

Image caption,Authorities say they expect more bodies to wash ashore on Thursday

President Muhammadu Buhari described the accident as “devastating”, offering his condolences to the victims’ families.

Qasimu Umar Wara, a resident of the nearby town of Wara, said more bodies are expected to wash up in the days ahead.

The boat was overloaded, he said: “My brother is among those missing. This is the worst boat accident that has happened in this water.”

Boat accidents along the River Niger are common with overcrowding a major cause, as well as collisions with tree trunks under the water.

Sailing at night, not wearing life jackets and overloading boats are criminal offences in Nigeria but ferry operators often disregard the regulations.

Boat skippers and ferry owners are rarely prosecuted for deaths resulting from their actions such as overloading.

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