Thursday, December 20, 2012
At least 55 Somalis and Ethiopians drowned or still missing in worst boating disaster in area in nearly two years.
Dozens of Somalis and Ethiopians have drowned or gone missing after their boat capsized off Somalia in the worst such disaster in the area in almost two years, the United Nations has said.
The UN refugee agency said on Thursday that Tuesday's incident represents "the biggest loss of life" in the Gulf of Aden since February 2011 when 57 Somali refugees and migrants from the Horn of Africa drowned while attempting to reach Yemen.
"Twenty-three bodies have been recovered. The 32 remaining passengers are presumed to have drowned," the UNHCR said.
At least five people survived the accident. They said the boat was overcrowded and capsized just 15 minutes after leaving the port of Bosasso in Somalia's northern semi-autonomous state of Puntland.
Andy Needham of UNHCR told Al Jazeera that many of the men were headed to Oman and Yemen to work in the frankincense trade.
"People come on the dangerous journey from different countries for different reasons," Needham said of the "mixed migration".
This year, some 100,000 people have crossed the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, despite warnings about the risks such trips involve, the agency said.
In addition to using unseaworthy and overcrowded boats, those fleeing the Horn of Africa often fall prey to unscrupulous smugglers, in whose hands they can face exploitation, extortion and even death, the agency warned.
It said 95 people had drowned or gone missing in the waters between Somalia and Yemen this year.