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Boat tragedy: Sad tales from Kebbi mourning community

Out of 76 corpses recovered, only few were not indigenes of Warrah.

When our correspondent went round the community, it was observed that groups of people converged on different places mourning their loved ones who died in the mishap.

Out of 76 corpses recovered, only few were not indigenes of Warrah.

It is said that out of all the passengers travelling in the boat, which was coming from Loko in Minna, Niger State, to Warrah, only 23 were said to have survived the fatal accident that occurred about 7am at Tsohuwan Labata, few minutes away to its destination.

Majority of the passengers were traders who usually shuttled everyday between the two places.

Loko attracts high number of traders because of the presence of artisanal gold miners.

It was also learnt that few passengers in the boat were from Zamfara, as well as some Nigerien nationals.

Also, majority of the passengers were young girls.

Daily Trust further learnt that the high death toll recorded might have been as result of late arrival of help as many of those who survived did so as a result of personal efforts.

Unlike the usual tradition where boat drivers move in convoy of two or three so as to render help in case of any eventuality, on that fateful day, the boat that capsized after breaking into two, travelled alone.

There are conflicting reports on what led to the accident. While some people attributed it to overloading, saying most of the passengers died because the heavy load the boat was carrying fell on them under the water, others said the boat was not carrying any heavy load, apart from passengers.

Shehu Bala said he watched his two daughters, who sold food at Loko in Minna, drown. He said three of them were going back home to carry more food while he was going to take some fish for sale.

According to him, owing to the rigorous nature of the business, they went under the benches of the boat to catch some morning sleep, noting that he was at the front part of the boat while his two little daughters were at the rear part, also sleeping.

He said he was suddenly woken by a big bang, only to see that the boat had split into two, with the part where his daughters slept sinking.

Bala said he made a frantic attempt to reach out to his two daughters but could not as their part of the boat sank immediately. He added that having noticed that he lost them to the high wave of River Niger, he jumped out before their part could sink.

He said although he knew how to swim, having been born by the riverside, he was also fortunate to grab a cover of one of the food flask belonging to vendors, and that helped him to sail freely to safety.

He also said that after a while, he heard a small girl behind, calling for assistance, and since he could swim, he decided to release the food flask cover to the small girl, telling her to hold to it firmly, but unfortunately, she lost her grip and drowned.

Speaking on his efforts to save his daughters, Bala said that with his experience about water accidents, he knew he had lost them for good, so he immediately resigned to fate.

“Looking at the situation, I knew they would hardly survive the accident. They were asleep and could hardly make any effort, so they drowned. I knew it was my last time to see them; therefore, I made effort to save myself,’’ he said.

Luckily, a 25-year-old Maryam Sani Warrah did not only survive the accident, she was also able to save the lives of two others.

Maryam, who also sells food at Loko, otherwise referred to as Daba, told our correspondent that their journey began smoothly, but after about an hour on the water, their boat broke into two and its front part sank immediately, which is contrary to Bala’s account. She said she sat at the rear part of the ill-fated boat.

She explained that when she heard the big bang, she immediately jumped into the river and made effort to throw food flask covers and containers to other passengers to enable them swim to safety.

She said that as the boat broke, she pulled off everything on her and dived into the water, and with the help of a food flask container, she started swimming away.

But she had to turn back to render assist to two others who were calling her for help. According to her, she instructed them to hold unto her beads; and that was how they moved to the river bank.

She also said it was one of the traumatic periods in her life because as she was swimming, she was also hearing the fading voices of other passengers calling for help.

“I saw some of my siblings drowning, but I could not help. The emotional imbalance is too much for one to bear.  As I was swimming to safety, I heard Ahmed, 10, and Ismaila, 13, calling my name for help. I asked them to hold unto me as we moved to safety,’’ she said.

Zainab Adanu, 15, is another survivor who had a premonition that something bad was about to happen to her. She said that when she was planning to travel, she had a second thought, but being destined to be part of the accident, she decided to go, reluctantly.

She said that after about two kilometers on water, the boat began to shake, and suddenly, there was a big bang and it split into two.

Zainab added that before the accident occurred, the boat was moving smoothly despite the fact that the driver was new to the waterway.

Although she survived the accident, she lost her younger sister, Sumaiya.

“When the boat broke into two, I jumped out while calling my sister, but she went sinking as the water took me away,’’ she said.

Abubakar Salihu, who is mourning his two daughters, said he was at the farm when the news got to him that a boat had capsized. At the time of filing this report, he said only the corpse of one of them, Hawa’u, was recovered.

Also, Sani Umar Warrah, who lost a daughter in the accident, said the information got to him shortly after he returned home from the mosque for early morning prayer. He added that his late daughter, Sumaiyya, 17, went to Daba only three times. She lost her life during the third trip.

He said they rushed to the riverside and participated in the rescue mission.

The area manager of the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Yauri, Burma Yusuf, at the time of filling this report, said 76 dead bodies were recovered and that rescue mission was ongoing.

Yusuf said plan was underway to embark on a massive campaign on how to improve safety while on waterways. He attributed most of the accidents on waterways to negligence of safety measures and use of old boats.

“We are appealing to the Kebbi State Government to assist us with water boats in order to improve on quick rescue mission. We have the capacity, but our major impediment is equipment,’’ he said.



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