Over 100 Missing After Boat Sinks in Africa

A boat carrying some 200 people broke apart and sank in northwest Nigeria, in the state of Kebbi, on Wednesday morning.

Yahaya Sarki, the media aide for the governor of Kebbi, said that the "locally made wooden boat capsized mid-water. Bodies are still being recovered."

Buhari Abubakar, one rescued survivor, said about 40 others have been rescued, and officials say over 100 more are still missing in the Niger River. As of Wednesday evening, five bodies have been recovered, but the official number of casualties is still unclear.

National Inland Waterways Authority local manager Yusuf Birma told reporters that "the remaining 156 people are still missing and are believed to be underwater." Local authorities and divers are working to save others, but they are not confident many more survivors will be found.

The BBC reported that most of the passengers journeying from Niger to Kebbi on the boat were women and children, and also traders and miners.

Many of the passengers were returning from a newly found gold mine in Niger, which may have been a factor in the sinking. Reports say the boat was likely weighed down with bags of sand from the gold mine.

The administrative head of the Ngaski district, Abdullahi Buhari Wara, reported that the boat was also heavily overloaded with passengers. It was never meant to carry more than 80 passengers at a time.

Qasimu Umar Wara, a resident of Wara, a nearby Nigerian town, said that the boat was most likely ferrying people to and from the gold vein. "They usually go there in the evenings and return to Wara in the morning. Most of them are petty traders, food vendors and the local miners."

According to Reuters, Qasimu Umar Wara said his brother is one of the missing passengers. "The boat was overloaded.... This is the worst boat accident that has happened in this water."

He said the local residents expect more bodies to begin washing ashore in the following days.

Boat incidents in Nigeria are not uncommon. Reuters reported that boats have a record of being overloaded with passengers or sometimes crashing into tree trunks under the surface without viable safety procedures. The result is incidents where dozens of lives are at risk of being lost.

Earlier this month, 30 people drowned when an overcrowded boat in Niger split in two and capsized after hitting a trunk under the water during a rainstorm. One hundred locals returning from a market were on the boat, and 65 people were rescued.

An abandoned ship lies in a waterway in Lagos, Nigeria, on April 8, 2019. PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images