Nigeria’s National Emergency Management (NEMA) said on Friday that at least 33 people drowned after an overloaded boat carrying traders from Niger capsized in Roiver Niger northwest of the country.
The chairman of Bagudo local government, Alhaji Muhammed Kaura Zagga told newsmen that majority of the traders were travelling from Gaya in the Dosso region of southern Niger to Lolo, in the Baguda area of Kebbi state, when the accident happened on Wednesday morning.
He said the Niger authorities had deployed 500 divers to search for the remaining traders still missing.
NEMA coordinator Suleiman Mohammed Karim said the boat had a capacity of 70 passengers but survivors said 150 people and their goods were on board.
“Eighty-four passengers were rescued by Nigerian and Nigerien rescue officials and the assistance of local divers,” he told AFP.
“Thirty-three bodies were salvaged from the river while 23 are still missing.
“Having spent two days on the water, we presume they are all dead.”
Cross-border trade is common in the remote area, with traders mainly travelling to markets from Niger to Nigeria to buy and sell goods from grain to livestock.
Weather conditions at the time of the capsize were calm, despite the rainy season, which earlier this week saw the authorities in Niger warn about potential flooding.
“Rivers are full which makes boat mishaps more likely. But in this case, overloading was a factor,” said Karim.
Capsizes are a frequent occurence in Nigeria, where overcrowding is common and unscrupulous operators flout health and safety norms.
In August, 12 people were killed when a passenger boat capsized in the commercial hub of Lagos, in the country’s southwest.