Another tragedy has struck in Calabar, Nigeria as a boat capsized leading to the death of 36 passengers. According to local authorities, the boat was overloaded and hit by heavy waves, causing it to overturn. Rescue efforts were hampered by darkness, though 18 survivors were pulled from the waters.
The deceased were given a mass burial at the military cemetery after a memorial service to honor the lives lost. The Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade urged regulators to tighten safety measures to prevent future accidents. He stated, “It is sad that we have to gather here again for the same reason. I call on operators of maritime transport businesses to adhere strictly to safety standards to forestall future occurrence of tragic incidents like this.”
Maritime transport is common in Calabar due to its rivers and creeks, but regulators have struggled to enforce laws around overloading, provision of life jackets, and ensuring boats are properly maintained. While the government plans to provide compensation for families of the victims, residents call for more to be done to prevent future catastrophes and improve emergency response times. Efforts such as increasing the number of rescue boats, training more divers and paramedics, and educating operators and passengers on safety best practices could help mitigate risks associated with water transit in the region.
Strict penalties for violators of laws and policies may also encourage compliance and give agencies more authority to properly regulate the sector. By taking proactive steps to avoid foreseeable risks, secure emergency resources, and instill a culture of safety, government authorities and transport groups can work together to make boat travel in Calabar less perilous, preventing the loss of life on such a tragic scale.