"The number dead and missing is uncertain but most passengers survived and have drawn up a list of 33 persons who are still missing," Etim Akeiza, the captain of the MV George said in Port Harcourt. He said the bodies of six drowned children had been recovered.
The wooden vessel capsized after striking an object in the Saint Bartholomew river, 40 miles after leaving the oil industry hub of Port Harcourt for the community of Nembe.
The fact that the George had not reached the open sea on its 60-mile journey to Nembe meant many survivors could swim ashore, Mr Akeiza said.
Igbogi Jacob, one survivor, said: "I was able to swim to safety but some people were trapped when the boat capsized. They were mostly women and children."
Dozens of boats with outboard motors have been combing the area for survivors.Reuse content