By Muhammad Bello
Tragedy struck Tuesday night as 30 persons drowned when a passenger boat capsized in Ngbuobohia in Rumuolumeni community, Obio/ Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State.
An eye witness, who preferred anonymity, said at about 9.00 pm on Tuesday, the boat carrying about 40 people capsized and about 10 persons including a one-and-a-half-year-old baby were immediately rescued and taken to a nearby hospital.
Three of those rescued were unconscious and later died. Subsequently, an additional 23 more corpses were recovered at about 3:25pm yesterday when the river tide receded. At the time of filing this report, 26 corpses have been recovered.
It was gathered that the boat carrying the 40 passengers was overloaded, while travelling from Ngbuobohia to Port Harcourt through Rumuolumeni when the incident occurred.
THISDAY checks revealed that bad roads on the Rumuolumeni and Ogbogoro axis had forced villagers to resort to river transport as an alternative, using a nearby waterfront at Eagle Island, behind the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) to access Ngbuobohia, before boarding a taxi to Port Harcourt.
Prince Collins Onunwo , leader of the Rumuolumeni Community Development Committee (CDC), appealed to the state government to construct wide roads in the area, saying, “Our people voted en masse for Governor Chibuike Amaechi. So, government should immediately construct the College of Education (COE), Rumuolumeni-Ngbuobohia road and the Rumoulumeni-Ogbogoro road.
Meanwhile, officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the police and operatives of the Nigeria Navy were spotted packing the bodies of victims, even as the spokesman of the state Police Command, Ben Ugbuegbulam, insisted that only seven persons were rescued alive, while one person had been confirmed dead.
“On 13/12/11 at about 2130hrs at Mgboudohia waterfront, a passenger wooden boat travelling from Eagle Island capsized and combined rescue team of marine police and Rumuolumeni Police Division and the Swift Operation Squad (SOS), led by Decompol Operations and the Navy also joined at the efforts,” Ugwuegbulem wrote in a text message to journalists.
According to Ugbuegbulam, “Seven persons were rescued, including a two-yr-old baby and one person confirmed dead and corpse deposited at mortuary of the Braithwaith Memorial Hospital (BMH). Rescue operations and further investigations going on.”