Seven market women lost their lives as a boat carrying 28 passengers, predominantly market women and children, capsized in the riverine community of Gelegele, located 35 kilometers from Benin City, Edo State.
The incident occurred last Thursday, sending shockwaves through the local area.
The ill-fated boat, which initially carried passengers, rammed into oil barges owned by Dubri, a multinational oil exploration company, that were reportedly improperly parked.
The boat had stopped in Gelegele to drop off some passengers and refuel. During the refueling process, a strong water current pushed the boat against the barges, leading to the tragic accident.
Community officials and local residents expressed their outrage, labeling the accident as entirely avoidable.
The Vice Chairman of Ovia North East Local Government Area, Blessing Perewari, who visited the scene, criticized the way the oil company’s barges were parked, which he believed caused a significant obstruction in the waterway.
Perewari explained, “The way the barges were parked caused obstruction on the waterway.
This particular boat, carrying 28 persons after dropping off two passengers, tried to restart the boat but the engine failed to respond.
Due to the high current of the river, it pushed the boat into the Dubri oil barges, and it submerged under the barges, making it difficult for the victims to escape.
Some passengers managed to swim to safety, but others were trapped under the barges.”
Thanks to the swift response of the Marine Police and the local community, 18 passengers were rescued, but seven lost their lives in the tragic incident.
The bodies of the deceased have been taken to Time Hospital and Stella Obasanjo Hospital for further arrangements.
Perewari criticized Dubri Oil for not providing ambulances to transport the deceased, adding to the community’s anguish.
Joseph Gbale, a member of the rescue operation team, supported the Vice Chairman’s assertion that the barges were improperly parked, narrowing the waterway and contributing to the disaster.
Despite the initial rescue efforts, the local nurse attending to the victims noted that no corpses had been recovered as of Friday morning, underscoring the severity of the accident.
One survivor shared her harrowing experience, mentioning that she sustained an injury while being rescued from beneath the barges.
The lack of response and assistance from Dubri Oil, a multinational oil company operating in the community, has raised concerns.
Local authorities are calling for a thorough investigation into the incident to determine liability and prevent future accidents.
An officer from the Marine Police, authorized to speak on the matter, has reported the incident to the Edo State Police Command in Benin City.
As this report was filed, the Edo State Police Public Relations Officer, Chidi Nwabuzor, was unavailable for comment but promised to respond later.
This tragic incident serves as a stark reminder of the need for safety measures and responsible conduct in riverine communities.
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