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50 dead after school boat sinks

LAGOS, Nov 3 – The death toll from last week’s boat accident on a river bordering Benin and Nigeria has risen to 50, most of them being Beninese primary school pupils, a local Red Cross official said Monday.

Thirty-five other passengers were rescued by local villagers in Bukuro village, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of Lagos.

"Fifty people have been confirmed dead. All the bodies have been recovered," Suleiman Adbulkarim Atere, the Red Cross spokesman for Kwara State where the village is situated, told AFP.

The accident occurred last Wednesday.

"Most of the people on board were primary school children from Benin," said Atere.

Sounon Bouko, mayor of the Beninese border town of Tchaourou said about 60 children aged six to 13 were returning from the nearby Nigerian village of Bukuro where they attend school when the boat tipped over on the Okpara River.

Atere said the cause of the accident was not immediately clear, "but it appears the canoe developed some technical problems."

The Okpara, also known as Nano, on the Benin-Nigeria border, often floods between September and December, regularly causing drowning deaths.

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