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40 Said Killed Off Nigeria Coast

August 7, 2000

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) _ At least forty passengers drowned after an overcrowded boat capsized in a storm off the Nigerian coast, officials said. Forty-two people are believed to have survived.

``We ran into a storm suddenly and the boat started to go down in the water,″ Olatunji Olawale, one of the crew members, said Sunday, a day after the boat went down amid the islands and swamps of Nigeria’s Atlantic coast, near the Cameroon border.

Francis Agbiti, the commander of the Eastern Naval Command, told reporters in the southeastern city of Calabar that overcrowding might have caused the boat to capsize about two hours after it left shore. Nigerian navy boats rescued people clinging to their belongings, he said.

Most of the passengers were traders, heading for the Cameroon port city of Douala.

Fatal boating accidents are common in Nigeria, where passenger boats, often old, in disrepair and overcrowded, are the main source of transportation for many people living along the country’s rivers and coastline.

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