NAN – No fewer than seven persons lost their lives when a boat in which they were travelling capsized at Ijede, a suburb of Ikorodu in Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) gathered that the ill-fated boat was headed for the Badore Jetty in Ajah, when the incident occurred at about 10:10 a.m. on Saturday.
A Correspondent of NAN who visited the scene gathered that the incident was caused by a heap of sand allegedly left by dregders who operated in the area.
It was the first fatal incident involving a commercial boat operator in the area.
Mr Hakeem Balogun, the General Manager (Operations) of Tarzan Boats, told NAN that the incident occurred minutes after the monthly state-wide sanitation was concluded.
“This morning, between 10:05 a.m. and 10:10 a.m., just immediately after the sanitation, the first 20-passenger boat moved from our jetty at Ijede, with only 17 persons onboard.
“After another 10 minutes, a second boat followed. But just a few minutes after, I saw the same boat returning to disembark its passengers and the captain told me that the first boat had an accident.
“We stopped operation and deployed all our boats for its rescue. For now, we’ve recorded about seven lost lives.’’
Balogun, whose company manages the jetty, added that he contacted relevant government agencies to report the incident, saying, “I called the Police, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) and all others concerned about the accident.’.”
He explained that two of the corpses were still in the custody of the Ijede Police Division, three at the Ikorodu General Hospital, while another two had been taken away by the bereaved families.
According to Balogun, the captain of the ill-fated boat, who was among those rescued, said the accident which occurred three minutes after departure, was caused by the activities of the dredgers.
“He said they heard a loud noise on impact, before the boat capsized, very close to the spot where a mechanised dredger was working.’’
It was when we got there that we saw that the boat actually hit a heap of sand left there by the mechanised dredgers.
“This is what we have been experiencing since the dredgers came here; the same route you plied on your way going, without any incident, could have had a heap of sand on your return journey.
“A similar incident almost happened about four weeks ago, but we lost our engine and the boat was damaged,’’ Balogun told NAN.
Meanwhile, boat operations have been suspended and some sympathisers gathered at the jetty as at the time of this report.
An eye-witness, Mr Olanrewaju Azeez, who assisted in the rescue operation, said, “we were offshore and we heard people calling for help.
“We hurried to the jetty for rescue and resuscitation efforts; I counted at least four corpses, while eight others were taken to the hospital.’’
Mrs Abisola Kamson, the Managing Director, Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), who visited the scene, told the NAN that it was too early to give accurate information about the cause of the incident.
“We cannot give you the situation report now as we are still trying to confirm the details.
“We don’t want to give any information now until we reconcile some conflicting reports. Once we confirm all the details, we will issue a statement,’’ she said.
Mr Ward Ogbu, the Divisional Police Officer, Ijede Divisional Headquarters, confirmed to NAN that there was indeed a boat mishap.
He, however, said that he was not in a position to comment further or give details, but directed NAN to the Police/Public Relations Department of the Lagos State Police Command.