Tragedy as seven market women drown in Edo boat mishap


FILE: A capsized boat

By Jethro Ibileke

Seven market women have drowned when the boat carrying them capsized in the oil-bearing community of Gelegele, in Ovia North-East Local government area of Edo State.

The mishap was said to have occurred in the morning of Thursday last week in the small riverine community situated about 35 kilometres away from Benin City, the state capital.

It was gathered that the boat which was boarded by 28 passengers, mostly market women and children, rammed into oil barges belonging to Dubri, a multinational oil exploring company, said to be wrongly parked.

The ill-fated boat was said to have parked at Gelegele to drop off some passengers and refuel. In the process of refuelling, the boat was said to have been pushed by a heavy water current which forced it against the barges parked along the waterway.

Officials of the local government and members of the community described the accident as avoidable.

Some of the surviving victims were brought out from under the barge by the men of the marine police stationed in the area.

The vice chairman of Ovia North East Local Government Area, Blessing Perewari, who visited the scene of the accident, noted that the way the barges were parked caused obstruction on the waterway.

He narrated: “The way the barges were parked caused obstruction on the waterway. So, this particular boat carrying 28 persons after dropping off two passengers tried to restart the boat but the engine failed to respond.

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“And because of the high current of the river, it now pushed the boat into the Dubri oil barges and it torpedoed under the barges making it difficult for the victims to come out. Some of them who knew how to swim managed to escape while others were trapped under the barges

“With the help of the Marine Police and other community inhabitants were able to rescue 18 of the passengers and seven died. The remains of the dead have been deposited at Time Hospital and Stella Obasanjo Hospital.”

Perewari blamed the oil company for their inability to provide ambulances to convey the dead.

One of the rescue operation team and a member of the community, Joseph Gbale, also corroborated the position of the Vice chairman on what led to the tragic mishap.

“Even though it was carelessness on the part of the driver of the boat, the barges should not have been parked in a double manner thereby narrowing the waterway.

“As at last Friday morning when we got there, not even a single corpse had been recovered. The local nurse said thirteen passengers were brought to the health centre and were attended to. One of the survivors said she sustained an injury while she was being pulled out from under the barges.

“We were shocked that Dubri Oil didn’t show any concern and no ambulance, a multi-national company exploring oil in the community.

An officer of the Marine Police who is authorised to speak on the matter said the report of the incident has been sent to the Edo State Police Command in Benin City.

At the time of filing this report, the Edo State Police Public Relations Officer, Chidi Nwabuzor when contacted said he was in a meeting and promised to respond later.

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