Dozens of African Migrants Drowned Off Yemen Coast

January 4, 2011 Updated: January 4, 2011

About 80 African migrants are feared to have drowned off the south Yemeni coast after their two boats capsized, said the Interior Ministry in a statement on Monday, according to AFP.

The migrants, mostly Ethiopians, attempted to reach Yemen across the Gulf of Aden in two boats, which were overturned by heavy winds.

“The accident was caused by high winds and a tsunami, which capsized the two boats taking them toward the coast,” the statement quoted the coast guard of Aden, according to AFP.

The first boat, carrying 46 people, capsized off the coast of Taez, with only three Somalis surviving the incident.

Another boat that went down off Lahij Province was loaded with “between 35 and 40 people, all of them Ethiopians and among them women and children,” the statement said, according to BBC News.

A search campaign is being carried out for possible survivors, but the precise date of the incidents is unspecified in the statement.

Annually thousands of Africans row to Yemen in an attempt to escape the conflicts, poverty, and persecution in their countries, and hundreds die on board due to overcrowding on rotten boats.

The exodus of people from Somalia crossing the Gulf of Aden has decreased significantly since the beginning of last year, reported the United Nations high commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) earlier this year.