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Abuja, Nigeria CNN  — 

More than 100 people are now confirmed dead after a boat ferrying hundreds of wedding guests overturned Monday in the river Niger around north-central Nigeria, local police said.

The vessel was carrying around 250 passengers traveling back to Patigi in northcentral Kwara State after attending a wedding party in Gboti, in neighboring Niger State, when it sank early Monday, killing 106 on board, according to police.

Around 144 people were rescued, police said.

“On leaving the shore, one part of the boat by the engine side collapsed where water penetrated the boat, which ultimately led to the boat capsizing,” police spokesman in Kwara, Ajayi Okasanmi, said in a statement made available to CNN Wednesday.

“All efforts to draw the attention of the villagers hosting the wedding ceremony for assistance by the persons in the boat proved abortive, leading to the deaths of about 106 people,” the statement added.

Abdul Gana Lukpada, a local chief in Patigi told CNN Tuesday that the wedding guests were stranded after heavy rains flooded the roads and were forced to cross the River Niger by boat from Gboti village to Patigi.

Heavy rains and flooding

The overcrowded boat capsized after hitting a tree trunk, he said of the accident which happened at around 3:00am Monday.

It’s unclear if poor visibility contributed to the accident.

“The terrain of the community is terrible when it rains. After the ceremony, it rained, so those who attended with motorcycles could not ride the motorcycles out of the community. They decided to use a big boat to convey people out of Egboti,” Lukpada narrated.

“It was early on Monday between 3:00 - 4:00 am. As they sailed, the boat hit a tree branch hiding in the water and it split into two. The volume of water was high, so it carried the passengers away,” he added, while describing the accident as “a big tragedy.” 

“I lost four of my neighbors,” Lukpada told CNN.

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (Nimet) had warned of heavy rains that could trigger floods this month as the country observes its rainy season.

Niger and Kwara states lay along the banks of the River Niger, West Africa’s main river, and surrounding communities remain vulnerable when it overflows.

Police said rescue teams were providing care to people rescued from the boat disaster and they will be reunited with their families when “they are fully recovered from the shock and trauma of the accident.”

Boat accidents are common in northern Nigeria. Last month, at least 15 people died after a boat capsized in northwestern Sokoto State, authorities told CNN.