KADUNA, Nigeria — A boat ferrying about 200 people capsized in the northwestern Nigerian state of Kebbi on Wednesday, though the number of casualties remains unclear, said a spokesman for the state’s governor.
Such incidents are not uncommon in Nigeria, with track records of overloading and poor maintenance and safety, though the number of passengers in Wednesday’s boat sinking means that dozens of lives were feared lost.
“The boat was ferrying about 200 passengers” coming from the neighbouring country of Niger, said Yahaya Sarki, a media aide for the governor of Kebbi.
“Their locally made wooden boat capsized mid-water,” he said. “Bodies are still being recovered. We can’t ascertain the number for now.”
The boat capsized near Wara, Sarki said, referring to a town on the shores of Kainji Lake, part of the Niger River.
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Many of the passengers were returning from a newly-discovered gold vein in Niger, said Qasimu Umar Wara, a resident of Wara town.
“They usually go there in the evenings and return to Wara in the morning,” he said. “Most of them are petty traders, food vendors and the local miners.”