Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari confirmed Sunday that 76 of the 85 people aboard a ferry boat had drowned while trying to escape their flooded villages. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 10 (UPI) -- An overloaded ferry boat carrying more than 80 people capsized while crossing a flooded river in Nigeria's Anambra state, killing nearly everyone on board, authorities said.
On Sunday, President Muhammad Buhari confirmed in a statement on Twitter that 76 of the 85 people aboard the boat had drowned.
"I pray for the repose of the souls of the deceased and for everyone's safety, as well as the well-being of the family members of the victims of this tragic accident," he said in a statement,
The disaster happened Friday in Ogbaru, in the country's southeast near the Gulf of Guinea, where heavy rains and flooding have killed at least 300 and forced hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes to seek higher ground.
Many of the victims were women and children who boarded the ferry to escape their rain-flooded villages.
The boat was reportedly making its way to the Nkwo market in Ogbakuba, east of Lagos, when the engine malfunctioned and the vessel careened into a bridge.
Buhari also ordered his government to conduct a check of "safety protocols on these transport ferries to make sure such incidents are avoided in the future."
Emergency crews scrambled to the scene, but continuously rising waters hampered the rescue effort.
Nigerian Air Force helicopters were called in to assist the effort while the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority and the National Emergency Management Agency also mobilized rescue and recovery teams.
One man in his 60s lost his entire family in the disaster, including his wife and three young children. "My life has fallen apart," he told BBC News.
The West African nation has been devastated by monsoon flooding since the start of the rainy season in April.
The flooding has been the worst seen in the country in recent memory. There are also concerns that there may not be any dry land to bury the dead.
Thousands of acres of farmland have also been washed away, threatening famine throughout the region.
Ferry accidents are a common occurrence in the country primarily due to the lack of government oversight.
A particularly deadly year came in 2013, when a boat capsized off the coast of Nigeria, killing 166 -- and then months later another boat capsized in the Niger River, leaving at least 42 dead and another 100 missing.