At least 58 people are feared to have drowned after a boat carrying dozens of migrants capsized in the Atlantic Ocean off the West African nation of Mauritania, the UN migration agency confirmed on Wednesday, reported CBC News. It was one of the deadliest disasters this year among people making the dangerous attempt to reach Europe.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the vessel, which was carrying at least 150 people including women and children, left Gambia on November 27. It was headed toward the Canary Islands when it tried to approach the Mauritanian coast to get fuel and food.
The other 83 migrants who were on board swam to shore. The injured were taken to hospital in Nouadhibou and the other survivors were being helped by Mauritanian authorities.
“Many drowned. The ones who survived swam up to the Mauritanian coast close to the city of Nouadhibou”, said Laura Lungarotti, chief of mission in the West African nation with the U.N. migration agency. “The Mauritanian authorities are very efficiently coordinating the response with the agencies currently present in the northern city.”
As per reports, the vessel was unseaworthy and overcrowded when it overturned.
There was no immediate statement from the authorities in Gambia from where many migrants set off in hopes of reaching Europe. The sea route from West Africa to Europe was once a major route for migrants seeking jobs and prosperity. According to the U.N. migration agency, more than 35,000 Gambian migrants arrived in Europe between 2014 and 2018.
Earlier this year, the coastal nation was hit hard by the collapse of British travel company Thomas Cook. At that time, Gambia’s tourism minister said the government convened an emergency meeting on the collapse. But, the shutdown is expected to have had a devastating impact on tourism, which contributes more than 30 percent of Gambia’s GDP.