Not less than 20 persons, including children, are feared dead in a boat accident that occurred along the Andoni-Bonny coastal waters in Rivers State on Tuesday.
Though the details of the incident are still sketchy as of the time of filing this report, the accident involved two passenger boats plying the routes.
Most of the victims were said to be from Ngo town, Ataba, and Isiama communities in the Andoni Local government area of the state.
Confirming the incident, the chairman of a group, Obolo Youths Coalition, Bonny LG chapter, Gogo Obolo, said in a telephone chat that the passengers were returning from Ngo town in Andoni to Bonny Island when the accident occurred.
While expressing worry that none of the affected victims have been recovered, he urged the Chairman of the local government, Chief Erastus Awortu, and his counterpart in Bonny LG to expedite action to recover the bodies of the victims and extend a hand of support to their families.
Obolo stated, “The Andoni people residing in Bonny Local Government Area received shocking news of our brothers and sisters involved in a boat accident while returning from the Christmas celebrations.
“While we pray that the rescue effort yield more success to reduce the pain of the accident, we imploy the Andoni local government chairman, Chief Erastus Awortu, and his counterpart in Bonny LG, Anengi Barasua, to visit the family of the victims in this trying period.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of Andoni LGA, Awortu, who also confirmed the boat accident, said he immediately dispatched a rescue team upon receiving a distress call, which led to the rescue of some persons.
Awortu, in a statement on Wednesday, commiserated with the families of those who lost their lives in the accident and promised to take over the medical bills of those rescued.
He, however, warned people and residents of Andoni to stop embarking on night journeys on the waterways and asked boat operators to always comply strictly with safety rules.
The statement read, “We received with rude shock and deep pain a disturbing report that over 20 persons from Andoni are feared dead in a boat accident involving two Andoni/Bonny-bound boats which occurred within the Andoni waterways on Tuesday, January 9, 2024.
“Upon receiving the sad news, we immediately dispatched our team to join the first responders on rescue mission at the scene of the incident in a bid to salvage the situation.
“We are closely monitoring the situation to offer further support, especially to give the survivors necessary medical attention and recover the remains of the dead from the sea.
“Our hearts go out to the families and communities of victims of this unfortunate disaster especially Ngo Town, Ataba, Isiama and other Communities whose loved ones were involved in the boat mishap.
“We share in their pain and trauma, our prayers and thoughts are with them in this moment of grief. We will do whatever we can as a Local Government to reduce the burden of grief of the bereaved families and communities.
“While we bemoan the boat mishap which came at a time when our people were still basking in the mood of a successful festive season in Andoni, we call on operators of water transportation in Andoni to ensure strict compliance of all passengers to safety rules.
“We also warn the operators to desist from embarking on night journeys on sea.”