Death toll jumps to 52 after migrant boats sink off Djibouti
Updated 22:01, 31-Jan-2019
CGTN
00:43

The death toll from the two migrant boats that sank off the coast of Djibouti has risen to 52, said the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Thursday. 

The incident occurred about 30 minutes after the overloaded boats set off in heavy seas from Godoria on the Horn of Africa nation's northeast coastline, according to the IOM.

Sixteen survivors have been rescued. "After being alerted by local residents, a team of gendarmerie gathered this afternoon near the reported site of the disaster and discovered two survivors as well as the remains of three women and two men," an IOM statement said.

One survivor estimated there were 130 people on his boat, but wasn't able to say the number of passengers on the other vessel.

Employees of the International Organization for Migration assist Ethiopian migrants to board a ship repatriating them home via Djibouti, in Yemen's rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida, June 2, 2018. /VCG Photo

Employees of the International Organization for Migration assist Ethiopian migrants to board a ship repatriating them home via Djibouti, in Yemen's rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida, June 2, 2018. /VCG Photo

"The coast guard was also alerted and launched search and rescue operations. Those operations are still underway with two patrol boats," said the statement.

Located across the Bab el-Mandeb strait from war-torn Yemen and next to volatile Somalia and Ethiopia, Djibouti has in recent years become a transit point for migrants heading to find work on the Arabian Peninsula.

Refugees fleeing Yemen also try and cross in the other direction.

The strategic sea crossing has repeatedly proven perilous. In 2018, at least 30 migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia believed to be headed for Djibouti drowned when their boat capsized off the coast of Yemen amid reports of gunfire being used against those on board.

In August 2017, dozens of migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia died after human traffickers forced them off two Yemen-bound boats and into the sea.

Source(s): AFP