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Somalis among 50 dead, 140 missing after a boat carrying 260 people capsized

 
Yemenis tend to their boat at a beach in the Al-Khokha area of Al-Hodeidah Governorate, in the west of the war-torn country on 1 June 2024 (Khaled Ziad / AF
Local news reports/ IOM

At least 49 people have died and 140 are missing after a boat carrying 260 people sank off the coast of Yemen‘s Aden on Monday, according to local officials and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Fatalities from the disaster include 31 women and six children.

According to survivors, the boat left Bossaso in Somalia at around 3 am on Sunday, and was carrying 115 Somali nationals and 145 Ethiopians, including 90 women.

According to local authorities in Rudum, east of Aden, the passengers were mostly from Ethiopia. Yemen is a major transit point on the journey from the African country to the Gulf states.

Hadi al-Khurma, the director of Rudum district, told Reuters that the boat was travelling from the Horn of Africa and capsized before it reached Alghareef Point in the Shabwa governorate.

 

“Fishermen and residents managed to rescue 78 of the migrants, who reported that about 100 others who were with them on the same boat are missing. ” he said.

According to IOM, search and rescue operations for the remaining 140 missing people are still ongoing, despite a shortage of operational patrol boats.

IOM said its teams were providing assistance to the 71 survivors, including six children, adding that eight people were referred to hospital for further treatment.

According to an aid worker who spoke to Arab News, 28 women were aboard the boat, while another relief worker who treated survivors reported 48 people dead and 15 in a serious condition.

A Yemeni worker who spoke to the newspaper said  the boat sank due to “heavy winds”.

Images shared with Arab News revealed bodies piled up on a vehicle transporting them for burial at Ayn-Bamaabed cemetery on Monday.

A journalist from Shabwa, Abdul Sallam bin Sama, said that fishermen had spotted the bodies floating at sea and hauled them up onto the beach.

“This recent tragedy is another reminder of the urgent need to work together to address urgent migration challenges and ensure the safety and security of migrants along migration routes,” IOM spokesperson Mohammedali Abunajela said.

According to the IOM, the number of African people arriving in Yemen by boat rose to 97,210 in 2023, up from 73,233 in 2022, and 27,693 the year before.

Ethiopians make up the majority of arrivals, spurred by political and economic instability, alongside droughts and other extreme weather events.

Yemen lies on the perilous Eastern Mediterranean route from the Horn of Africa to the Middle East, with coastal areas in Shabwa amongst the key landing locations for people trying to reach Saudi Arabia.

The latest disaster follows a string of fatal shipwrecks, with at least 21 people killed in a wreck off Djibouti on 23 April and over 60 people killed in another wreck on 8 April.

Since 2014, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has recorded 1,860 migrant deaths and disappearances along the Eastern Route from the East and Horn of Africa to the Gulf countries, including 480 due to drowning.

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