57 Somali refugees die when boat capsizes off Yemen, U.N. says

UNITED NATIONS: More than 50 Somali refugees drowned when their boat capsized while crossing the Gulf of Aden to Yemen on Sunday, the United Nations refugee agency said on Thursday.

Fifty-four of the dead or missing were Somali refugees, including six children, while the remaining three were smugglers.

The only survivor is a 42-year-old man who swam for almost a day before reaching the Yemeni coast near the port of Bir Ali, some 400 kilometres east of Aden. The survivor, who had fled fighting in Mogadishu with his wife and three children, said the small two-engine boat took on water after being repeatedly hit by strong waves before it eventually capsized. Just nine men were left alive at this stage, but he doesn't know what happened to these people.

As of late Wednesday, 23 bodies had been recovered since a search was mounted by the Yemeni navy. No more survivors have been found.

"Based on what we know so far this is the largest loss of life in the seas between Somalia and Yemen in a single incident since January 2008," the UN refugee agency said.

On that occasion, smugglers forced 135 people into the water from a boat, causing it to capsize and leaving 114 people drowned.

"We are horrified by this latest tragedy that adds to the terrible suffering of the Somali people," High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said.

"The Gulf of Aden remains one of the deadliest routes for those fleeing the fatal mix of conflict, violence and human rights abuses in the Horn of Africa," he added.

With the latest deaths, 89 people have drowned or gone missing in the waters been Somalia and Yemen this year.


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