At least 29 die as boat sinks in Nigeria

Image copyright AFP Image caption The official death toll is uncertain, with 15 students and six crew members still missing

At least 29 people have died after a boat carrying Nigerian students capsized in bad weather near the coast of Arun in the western state of Anambra.

Eighteen are still missing, officials say.

Sixty-five of the students, all studying electrical engineering, died in the vessel that was still afloat on Wednesday, the state police commissioner said.

However, an official from the Federal Ministry of Education told the BBC that the death toll is likely to have gone up, with seven students among the missing.

“In all, 30 students perished and some have since been identified and rescued by our teams. As the search continues we cannot be sure that there are no more, they might be in the jungle or were buried under the bridge,” state police commissioner Chinwe Ibe told AFP news agency.

“The remaining students are in critical condition, but on the way to the hospital we know they are responding well to treatment.”

‘Lured’ by lure of perfect trip

Moves to have wooden boats replaced by motor boats were already underway in coastal Anambra.

But campaigns against the use of the boats led to a rise in accidents, killing many Nigerian migrants.

Mr Ibe said the boat’s engine had stopped working and it was unable to sail north into neighbouring Enugu state.

Following a rescue operation, police said 18 students, three crew members and four other passengers had died.

One of those missing is believed to be missing Miss Josephine; her sister, Mercy, was also one of the passengers on the boat.

A relative told local media that the family had sent their children on the long-distance trip to study electrical engineering at a government-run institution in the Chinese city of Lhasa.

Miss Josephine told her family she had been lured to China by the prospect of a perfect trip on a wooden boat, which could be sailed across the open ocean to enjoy the clear night skies, without encountering any storms.

However, according to her friends, she had never once mentioned seeing a clear night sky.

The apparent greed among Nigerian students to be abroad

Miss Mercy’s mother said her daughter was “attracted” by the length of the trip.

Also, both of Josephine’s younger brothers had gone through the same programme in China and had subsequently returned to Nigeria.

A funeral for the dead will take place on Friday in the Nigerian town of Nnewi, before the bodies are flown to China for interment in her village.

“Josephine was the sister I always miss and the heartbroken mother will not sleep tonight,” Mercy said.

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