By Okafor Ofiebor/Port Harcourt
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Over 20 people are feared dead in a mishap involving two passenger boats on the Andoni- Bonny waterway, Andoni local government area of Rivers State.
The tragic accident was confirmed in a press statement personally signed by Erastus C. Awortu, Chairman of Andoni Local Government Council on Tuesday.
“We received with rude shock and deep pain a disturbing report that over 20 persons from Andoni are feared dead in a mishap involving two Andoni/Bonny-bound boats which occurred within the Andoni waterways on Tuesday 9th, 2024.
He said that upon receiving the sad development, the local government Council immediately dispatched a team to join the first responders on rescue missions 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 survivals 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.”
The Council Chairman promised the management will do whatever we can as a Local Government to reduce the burden of grief of the bereaved Families and Communities.
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“While Council 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,” Awortu said
The Council Chairman warned boat Operators against night journeys on the Sea to avoid such tragic incidents.
However, some reports had indicated that some of the victims of one of the mishaps include an infant and 10 other passengers who were travelling to Bonny Island from the Ngo community in Andoni Local Council of Rivers State.
According to the report, one of the survivors of the incident, Ayayi Festus, embarked on the journey with his wife, four children and his grandchild but lost all of them in the unfortunate mishap.
The source said: “The fishing boat, which is the only source of livelihood for Mr Ayayi Promise Festus from Ngo, carried 25 passengers, including his wife, Mrs Rose Promise, four of his children and his little grandchild. They had departed Ngo town to Bonny, their settlement, around 2 p.m., yesterday 8th January.
“While travelling, the boat was struck by a heavy wave around Bonny River which divided and destroyed the big boat.
“As at when this unfortunate incident occurred there were no rescue team to save the 25 passengers on board. Hours later when the rescue team came, 11 passengers had drowned while 14 passengers including Festus and his wife were rescued.”
The source noted that among the 11 passengers who drowned, five were the children and the little grandchild of Festus, the driver and owner of the boat who’s a fisherman.
He added that so far, three bodies have been recovered and eight are still missing, and currently being searched for.