Forty-three people, most of them from Benin, are missing after an overloaded boat sank in the Niger River, a local official said Thursday.
The accident happened early Wednesday in Sambera, southwestern Niger, near the border with Benin, Sambera Mayor Oumarou Hassane told AFP.
“Sixty-two people were saved and 43 others are missing, judging from the number of shoes that have been recovered,” he said.
They were aboard a canoe travelling from Gori-Beri in Benin to Ouna in Niger, he said.
The vessel was carrying a large consignment of cereals and about a hundred Beninois and Nigerien traders heading to the market in Ouna, Hassane said.
The overladen vessel sank in the early morning hours, buffeted by powerful winds, he added.
In Benin, Moussa Mouhamadou, prefect of the northern district of Alibori, gave a similar toll.
“Sixty-four people were saved,” he told Radio Benin.
“We discovered about 40 pairs of shoes at the site (of the accident), and linked them to the people who are missing.”
Benin has sent naval and police units to join local fishermen in searching for survivors, and a diving team was expected to arrive from Cotonou, the capital, later Thursday.
“The survivors went home last night and are well. They are being given medical and psychological support,” Mouhamadou said.