Dozens of people thought to have been prospecting for gold are feared drowned after a boat with 200 passengers on board sank in Nigeria.
Many of the passengers were returning from a newly discovered gold vein, a local resident said.
The “overloaded” vessel broke in two before it went down in the Niger River, Times Now News reported.
“A rescue operation is under way but only 22 survivors and one dead body have been recovered,” a local official reportedly said.
Abdullahi Buhari Wara blamed the accident on overloading as the boat was not meant to take more than 80 passengers.
The boat, which was sailing from central Niger state to northwestern Nigeria, was also loaded with bags of sand from a gold mine, he said.
Qasimu Umar Wara, a resident of Wara town, said many of the passengers were returning from the gold vein in neighbouring Niger.
“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.”
Initial reports put the passenger number at 160 but a media aide for the governor of Kebbi later put the number at 200.
“Their locally made wooden boat capsized mid-water,” said Yahaya Sarki. “Bodies are still being recovered. We can’t ascertain the number for now.”
Boat accidents on the River Niger are common, often caused by overcrowding and poor maintenance and safety.
Earlier this month, 30 people drowned when another overloaded boat capsized in central Niger state.
That boat also split into two, after hitting a stump during a storm as it was ferrying 100 local traders from a local market, Niger’s state emergency agency said.
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