(Latest update at bottom of page)

19 Mar 2013:

At least 45 people died when a wooden boat carrying 166 people from southeastern Nigeria capsized off the coast, a doctor said on Tuesday.

The boat left on Friday from the remote town of Oron, in Cross Rivers state, and was heading across the Gulf of Guinea to Gabon, in central Africa, when it capsized 40 nautical miles offshore, emergency services and traders said.

A doctor at a hospital in the coastal town of Calabar said they had received 45 bodies of passengers who had drowned.

David Akate, head of Cross Rivers emergency services, said he had no official death toll yet.

Two known survivors were a young boy and a woman who had clung to a gas cylinder and were rescued by fishermen, he added.

Yushua Shuaib, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency, said they could only confirm nine dead so far.

Tuesday, 19 March, 2013 at 20:57 (08:57 PM) UTC RSOE

Nigerian rescuers have recovered 9 bodies from a boat that capsized at 40 nautical miles of the coast of Calabar. Two (2) survivors have been taken to University Teaching Hospital (UTH) Calabar. The destination of the boat is yet to be ascertained though it was suspected to have originated from Congo DR. Rescue continues…
Yushau Shuaib
NEMA PR

Update 24 Mar 2013:

How We Survived Calabar Boat Mishap

“FOR almost two days (last Friday and Saturday), two survivors of the boat mishap which occurred off the coast of Calabar, Cross River State clung to an oil installation without food but later on the second day, when hunger was really hit them hard, out of the blue came a floating bottle of soft drink.

Quickly, Kive Sani, 27 from Togo grabbed it, opened it with his teeth and shared with Hafst Zakari, 13, from Benin Republic. Minutes later, a can of energy drink floated close by and they grabbed it and shared.

The drinks served as meal until they were rescued on the third day, Sunday. Two other passengers who also clung to the installation with them were not so lucky. They got exhausted and drowned.

Last Friday, a giant wooden boat had left the shores of Oron heading for Gabon with 128 passengers but half way into their journey in Ado near Addax platform, the boat capsized.

Ninety-nine passengers are feared dead while 29 survived.

Sani and Zakari were rescued by Addax workers on Sunday afternoon. They were taken to Calabar on board a drilling vessel being operated by Addax on Tuesday at about 6.30 pm.

Sani who spoke in broken English at the Bakor Clinic along the Murtala Mohammed Highway where they were admitted, said the tragedy was caused by the boats failed engines. As a result, were started entering the boat.

He said they were in the water from 9pm on Friday night when the incident happened, till Sunday at about 3pm when they were rescued.

When the engines stopped working, Sani said the captain asked them start praying.

The Muslims prayed first then the Christians and he told us our life was at the end. Some were shouting Allah, others were shouting Jesus. Ten minutes later, water was still entering the boat and people started jumping into the water.

Sani who had paid his master 300,000 CFA to get a job in Gabon and to pay the balance of 200,000 CFA after getting the job, said there were 128 passengers and five crew members and he acted as an interpreter to those who understood only French.

He revealed that after jumping off, he saw an oil installation in the water and held unto it with his master and two other young ladies. My master at a point got tired and exhausted and could not hold on again and he fell into the water. Later, the second lady lost grip and fell into the water too but I told the remaining lady to hold on and pray.

At a point, when she almost gave up. I asked her to climb my back as she was very weak. She did and we remained there battling and hoping to survived. On the second day, we were terribly hungry and weak but later in the day, we saw a bottle of Coca Cola floating to our direction. I grabbed it and drank then gave half to the lady. A few minutes later, we saw a can of Bullet energy drink. Again, we got it and shared. This was what kept us. At this point there was nothing again we could do so I asked the girl her religion, she said Muslim and she asked me mine and I said Muslim as well. We prayed and hoped for rescue.

On the third day (Sunday), I saw smoke from a distance in the morning and I told the girl to continue to lie on my back as I decided to pick up courage to swim towards the smoke. I swam with only one hand with the other clinging to the cylinder and the lady on my back in the morning until about 3pm when we saw a white man in a boat in the direction of the smoke. Immediately, he ordered his men to come and rescue us. They came with a smaller boat and picked us. It was just God that did it for us, Sani said.

He said on Tuesday they were brought down to Calabar and to the hospital for treatment and check up. Sani gave the names of the mishap boat crew members as Theo, Kpakpa, Ibrahim, Daniel and Francis. They are all Nigerians but most of the passengers were from Ghana, Togo, Niger, Benin.

Hasaft, who spoke only Yoruba through an interpreter, said she did not remember much, but only that the engine stopped working close to an oil field and they were in great danger. We were asked to start praying when the accident happened, she added.

Meanwhile, the Director General of the Cross River State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Mr. Vincent Aqua has confirmed that 99 passengers are still missing. From all indications, 128 persons including the crew members were on board the ill-fated boat and not 133 or 166 as speculated, he said.

Aquah added that out of the 128, only five were crew members and so far, the number we can say died are nine and 29 survived while the remaining number are still missing. Two survivors are in Calabar while 27 more survivors found were taken to Oron.

The Coordinator of the Eastern Zone of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr Olayemi Abbas said last Sunday at 21.30 hours, they got a message from Kaztec Engineering Limited who are operators for Addax Petroleum that there was an unfortunate mishap at sea, that a vessel carrying passengers allegedly capsized at about the oil field OML 123 which is 40 nautical miles off the Calabar.

In the ensuing search and rescue operation embarked on by Addax, nine bodies were recovered and two survivors. The NIMASA team from the local office in Calabar and the zonal office in Port Harcourt which I head, immediately swung into action and we received the bodies on Monday 18 at about 6.30 pm at the NPA terminal operated by Ecomarine Terminals.

They were brought on board a vessel called SWAL LINK SIX and the bodies were immediately taken to the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital for embalmment and safe keeping. The bodies were bloated and all nine bodies were women and unfortunately, one of them was heavily pregnant at the time of death. They were brought in well packaged in body bags in a dignified manner. Also recovered were two bags containing clothing, shoes and other personal effects.

The other items recovered were a vital clue to a foreign SIM card belonging to one of the passengers and the SIM card is operated by a company called MOOVE, apparently operating in Gabon. When we did an analysis of the SIM card, we were able to recover some of the numbers on it and made contact with some of the people who claimed to know the owner of the telephone number and identified him as Joe marine who is still missing. He was identified as a Nigerian living in Oron with his family, Abass said.

A marine transporter at the Calabar Inland Waterways, Mr. Ikechukwu Egwu said the traders came from the South East and headed to Oron in Akwa Ibom to board the wooden boat to Gabon and they are mostly Igbo traders who headed to Oron to board the wooden boat because it was cheaper.

So far, the wreckage of the giant wooden boat has not been found and The Guardian gathered that the casualty was so high because the boat, as it is the case with other boats plying that route, did not carry life jackets.” – guardiannewsngr.com

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