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Nigeria: More than 70 people missing after latest deadly boat accident

More than 70 people were missing on Monday after a boat sank in northern Nigeria, according to authorities who regretted frequent deadly boat accidents in Africa’s most populous country.

The boat was carrying traders returning from a fish market in Taraba State’s Ardo-Kola district when it capsized Saturday night on the Benue River, one of the largest rivers in Nigeria, officials said.

Ladan Ayuba, head of Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency, told The Associated Press that more than 100 passengers were on the boat and 14 people were rescued, while 17 bodies were found and 73 people were missing.

Taraba Governor Agbu Kefas called the accident a “huge tragedy” and ordered the use of life jackets for passengers on the boat. According to a statement released by his office on Monday, the governor said: “Our watercourse, one of the longest in the region, must be a source of real wealth and not death”.

Maritime disasters frequently occur in isolated communities in this West African country. This is the third incident involving more than 100 passengers in just four months. Most of it is said to be due to overcrowding.

Convenient roads are often lacking in these areas. Taraba police spokesman Usman Abdullahi said authorities were investigating the cause of the accident. Local people and fishermen are helping relief agencies.

Abdullahi said he was concerned the operation would last several days because the river was at its highest level. “We didn’t even expect bodies to be nearby,” he said.

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