Barely six days after a boat mishap on River Niger claimed 26 lives in Malali village in Borgu Local Government Area in Niger State, another marine disaster occurred on Thursday leaving no fewer than 18 persons feared dead.
Just like the Malali disaster, the Thursday mishap occurred at about 4pm when a commercial boat conveying about 80 traders back from the weekly Thursday market in Kokoli to Ulakami split into two and capsized on River Niger.
The boat which was alleged to be very old and rickety was said to have split into two midway of the 10 kilometre journey leading to the drown and subsequent death of 18 passengers.
The captain and the owner of the boat are said to have gone into hiding following protest in the village by some youths.
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 other boats for rescue.
62 persons were rescued while 13 bodies were picked dead and five persons missing are feared dead 48 hours after the accident.
A survivor Umar Ibrahim said he was at a loss for the cause of the accident. He noted that the old rickety boat just split into two mid-way into their trip and passengers were thrown into confusion and people struggling to swim to safety.
Ibrahim said his mastery of swimming saw him through the harrowing period as he quickly joined other rescue team and was able to rescue about 10 people all who were women and children.
He attributed the low rate of casualty to the timely intervention of other boat captains and their passengers who could swim.
According to him, “but for the prompt response by other boats around it would have been a disaster. No one would have survived, because the bank of the river is far away. Other boat captains and their passengers launched a rescue party and used their boats to carry the rescued to safety”.
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 the the poor state of the boat was blamed for the accident.
As soon as the disaster was broken in Minna the Niger State capital, government dispatched a rescue team led by the Special Adviser to the governor on Disaster and Emergency management Malam Mohammed Saba to Kokoli for on the spot assessment.
Confirming the incident to the government delegation, the village head of Kokoli, Alhaji 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 youth 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.
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