Over 40 missing in shipwreck off Africa -coastguard

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MADRID, Oct 25 (Reuters) A Spanish fishing boat found seven corpses and one survivor in an open-topped wooden boat adrift off Senegal, with dozens more passengers thought to be missing, the Spanish coastguard said today.

According to the survivor, the boat began its journey with 54 people on board, the coastguard said. An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said the numbers involved were still not clear.

The boat, found 300 miles west of Senegal on Wednesday night, had been adrift for 20 days, the Spanish coastguard said.

Thousands of illegal immigrants in rickety wooden boats attempt the journey from Africa to Spain's Canary Islands every year. Many die trying to reach Europe in search of work.

A Spanish rescue boat has set out to meet the fishing boat and take the corpses and survivor to the Canary Islands.

The Spanish are conducting the rescue operation, even though the vessel was found in waters assigned to Senegalese rescue, because the fishing boat that found the wreck is Spanish, the coastguard said.

REUTERS SYU PM1845

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