ANO, Nigeria (AP) – Families were swept away in a torrent of water and up to 40 people were feared dead after a dam collapsed in northwest Nigeria, a state-owned radio station said Sunday.

The dam – about one mile from the center of Zamfara state’s capital city of Gusau – collapsed Saturday after heavy rains. But surveyors were trying to determine whether to blame the downpour or structural neglect.

Ibrahim Brini Magaja, a spokesman for the Zamfara state governor, said it was too early to determine why the dam did not hold up, but a construction firm had been asked to study the damage for clues.

Radio Nigeria said up to 40 people might be dead and area resident Johnson Enokola, 39, said he counted seven bodies floating in the water. Police confirmed three deaths.

“I have never seen anything like this in my life. Whole families were washed away by the water into the dam,” 35-year-old Easter Peter said by telephone.

About 1,500 homes were destroyed in the deluge, said Ibrahim Farinloye, spokesman for the government agency organizing the relief effort. He said rescue workers had been dispatched to the area.

The Gusau dam collapse follows continued heavy flooding in neighboring Sokoto state this week, tied to weakness in a different dam.

An official said coursing water destroyed hundreds of houses and polluted drinking water there when a dam failed to release floodwaters because sediment had built up in its outlets. There has been no word on deaths or injuries related to the flooding.

“The water is continuing to rise and flood farmlands,” said Dahiru Yusuf Yabo, the head of the Sokoto state water board. “Most people had time to flee but they had to abandon most of their belongings.”

Yabo said he did not think there was a connection between the two floods.

The floodwaters contaminated wells of nearly 10,000 people, Yabo said.

“There is a risk of disease, so we are dispatching people with water treatment kits,” he said.

Nigeria has suffered from regular outbreaks of cholera. An outbreak in September killed scores of people and infected more than 1,000.

Though Nigeria is rich in oil, government corruption and poor distribution of wealth have left its infrastructure and health services in ruins.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.