Nma Shekwolo – Minna
Thirteen dead bodies have been recovered and five persons are still missing after a commercial boat conveying about 80 traders back from the weekly Thursday market in Kokoli to Ulakami in Niger State split into two and capsized on River Niger.
This is coming barely a week after a boat mishap on the same river claimed 26 lives in Malali village in Borgu Local Government Area of the state.
A rescue team led by the special adviser to the governor on disaster and emergency management, Mohammed Saba, immediately arrived the scene of the accident and was able to save 62 persons but five persons are still missing 48 hours after the accident.
The boat which was alleged to be very old and rickety was said to have split into two midway of the 10 kilometre journey, causing passengers to scamper for safety.
A survivor, Umar Ibrahim, told newsmen that he still did not understand how the accident happened. He noted that the old rickety boat just split into two mid-way into their journey and passengers were thrown into confusion with people struggling to swim to safety.
Ibrahim said his ability to swim saved him, as he quickly joined the rescue team to help evacuate other drowning passengers.
He said that the prompt response by people in other boats averted what would have been a bigger disaster.
An eye witness who was on another boat near the ill-fated one said it was the cry for help by the passengers in the capsized boat that drew the attention of passengers in other boats.
Youths in the village went wild looking for the driver and the owner of the boat, as the duo took to their heels for fear of attack because they blamed the accident on the poor state of the boat.
Confirming the incident to the government delegation, the village head of Kokoli, Mohammed Garba, said he went round after the mishap and gathered that 13 bodies were picked and five persons were missing as at Saturday morning.
Addressing the survivors, families of the victims and some aggrieved youths who blamed the accident on the rickety state of the boat, the governor’s aide appealed for calm.
He assured them that government was set to overhaul marine transport service in the state.