Rivers State is grappling with a heart-wrenching catastrophe as two passenger boats capsized on the Andoni waterways, claiming the lives of at least 20 individuals. The devastating incident occurred during a journey to Bonny on Tuesday night.
Erastus Awortu, the Executive Chairman of Andoni Local Government Area, revealed details of the incident in a statement he personally signed. The statement, received by newsmen in Port Harcourt during the early hours of Wednesday, January 10, conveyed his profound shock at the tragedy. He expressed heartfelt condolences to the families and communities affected by the unfortunate incident.
Awortu regretted that the fatal accident occured after successful festive celebrations, including unity carnivals in the council area.
He noted the council’s efforts to save those who were alive, offer first aide assistance to the injured and recover bodies of the dead from the river; as he promised to cushion the pains of the deceased families and communities in this their trying moments.
Furthermore, the council chairman harped on the need for boat operators to insist on total compliance of all passengers to safety measures, and warned against night travels by sea.
The statement said: “We received with rude shock and deep pain a disturbing report that over 20 persons from Andoni are feared dead in boat mishap involving two Andoni/Bonny-bound boats which occurred within the Andoni waterways on Tuesday January, 9, 2024.
“Upon receiving the sad development, we immediately dispatched our team to join the first responders on rescue mission 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 survivors 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 where involved in the boat mishap.
“We share in their pain and trauma, our prayers and thoughts are with them in this moment of grief.
“We will do whatever we can as a Local Government to reduce the burden of grief of the bereaved families and communities.
“While we 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.
“We also warn the operators to desist from embarking on night journey on sea.”