More than 100 people died, including many who were returning from a wedding ceremony, after a river boat transporting them capsized in the early hours of Monday in Nigeria, according to residents and the local police.
The boat was sailing on the Niger River in the western state of Kwara, according to a police spokesman, Okasanmi Ajayi, who said that more than 100 people had been rescued and that the search was ongoing.
“The boat capsized in complete darkness and it wasn’t until hours later that we were alerted,” Mr. Ajayi said. The death toll stood at 103 as of Tuesday evening and was likely to rise, he added.
River boat accidents are a recurring issue in Nigeria, a West African nation where overloading, lax safety regulations, the absence of life jackets and poor maintenance often lead to deadly incidents. Nighttime sailing is outlawed across the country, but the ban remains poorly enforced.
Ibrahim Hassan, a resident of the village of Ebbu, where many of the wedding guests were from, said the area experienced heavy rainfall on Monday. One family that Mr. Hassan knows lost seven children, with two others still missing as of Tuesday night, he said in a telephone interview.
“We lost a lot of people, including women and children,” Mr. Hassan added. “Our community will never be the same again.”
Nigerians often turn to river transport as an alternative to poorly maintained roads, especially during the rainy season.
The 2,600-mile-long Niger, the main river in West Africa, acts as a key regional trade route, originating far to the west in Guinea and flowing in a vast arc northeast into the Sahel, then southeast and finally south, discharging into the Atlantic through the Niger Delta, in southeastern Nigeria. It is Africa’s third-longest river, after the Nile and the Congo.
Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the governor of Kwara State, said in a statement that the boat had carried people from several states, but it remained unclear whether all of the passengers had been attending the wedding ceremony.
In May 2021, at least 160 people died in a boat accident in roughly the same area on the Niger River. In May of this year, at least 15 children died after a boat capsized in the northwestern state of Sokoto.