NAIROBI, Dec 20 – Fifty five Somalis and Ethiopians drowned or went missing after their boat capsized off Somalia on Tuesday in the worst such disaster in the area in almost two years, the United Nations said.
The UN refugee agency said Thursday the 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,” 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 on Tuesday.
One hundred thousand people have crossed the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden this year, 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 have drowned or gone missing in the waters between Somalia and Yemen this year.