8 people found dead in a boat off the coast of Senegal and a search has been launched for possible survivors

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Eight migrants have been found dead after a boat capsized off the coast of northern Senegal while trying to reach Europe, the government said.

The bodies were recovered by firefighters and the navy and a search for survivors was launched, Senegal’s Interior Minister Felix Abdoulaye Diome said in the northern fishing town of Saint-Louis on Thursday. of the country, where the bodies were brought.

Saint-Louis morgue director Mourtalla Mbaye told The Associated Press that about 155 people were on board and many survivors were injured and treated in a military area of ​​the city.

Six bodies were brought to his morgue – all of them were men who drowned. It is not known how many people survived and how many are still missing, he said.

The boat, rescued on Wednesday evening, comes days after seven other people were found dead and 50 were rescued on another vessel also bound for Europe and discovered off St. Louis. At least 90 people are missing from this boat.

It also comes after an announcement by Spanish aid group Walking Borders that around 300 people went missing at the end of June when three boats left Senegal from two different towns.

The Atlantic migration route is one of the deadliest in the world, with nearly 800 people dead or missing in the first half of 2023, according to Walking Borders.

In recent years, the Canary Islands have become one of the main destinations for people trying to reach Spain, with a peak of more than 23,000 migrants arriving in 2020, according to the Spanish Interior Ministry. In the first six months of this year, more than 7,000 migrants and refugees have reached the Canary Islands.

Boats travel mainly from Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania, and less from Senegal. However, at least 19 boats from Senegal have arrived in the Canary Islands since June, the Spanish aid group said.

Factors such as struggling economies, a lack of jobs, extremist violence, political unrest and the impact of climate change are pushing migrants to risk their lives on overcrowded boats to reach the Canaries. Last month in Senegal, at least 23 people were killed during weeks of protests between opposition supporters and police.

Ibnou Diagne boarded a boat from the Senegalese town of Mbour on July 2 in hopes of finding better work in Spain to support his family, he said. The 26-year-old was one of the survivors of the boat found earlier this week and spoke to the St. Louis AP after being rescued.

“I wanted to have better living conditions because it’s hard to find a job here,” he says. He paid about $680 and piled into a ship bound for Spain with about 150 other people.

The first days of the trip went well, but then the boat ran out of gas and water and got lost between the Mauritanian and Senegalese border, Diagne said. The passengers tried to contact fishermen in their town of Mbour and also in Saint-Louis, but there was no telephone network.

Soon after, people started dying, he said. The first man to board the boat was ill and died of illness, while others were killed when the boat broke apart after hitting the mouth of the river.

“I saw a boy die, he was maybe 15 or 16 and there was nothing I could do to help him. He was injured by a piece of wood,” Diagne said. “It was absolute chaos.”

Fearing to die on the sinking boat, many people jumped into the water and tried to swim. Some of the passengers wanted to throw the dead overboard, but the captain refused, he said.

The boat was rescued there by the Senegalese gendarme and brought back to Saint-Louis.

Despite the suffering and death he has witnessed, Diagne says that if he has another opportunity, he will board another ship bound for Spain.

“Without hesitation, if I find another boat, I will try again,” he said.


Babacar Dione contributed to this report.


Follow AP’s coverage of migration issues at https://apnews.com/hub/migration

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