Boat carrying Somalis, Ethiopians capsizes


Published: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 2:18 a.m.

NAIROBI, Kenya-- At least 80 people were feared dead after a boat from Somalia to Yemen developed engine trouble and capsized, a U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The boat capsized in the Gulf of Aden on Jan. 4, and between 23 and 25 survivors were taken to the Yemeni port of Aden several days later on another boat coming from Somalia, said Kitty McKinsey, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Nairobi.

Survivors told UNHCR that there was an explosion in the engine room which caused passengers to panic and move to the front of the boat. It then capsized and the captain is believed to have drowned.

Survivors told UNHCR there were between 100 and 120 people, mostly Somalis, on the boat when it capsized. A Yemeni security official, said there were 23 survivors -- 15 Somalis, including five crew members, and eight Ethiopians.

Yemeni authorities conducted several rescue missions, but were unable to find any survivors, the official said.

The boat left the northeastern Somali port of Bossaso on Jan. 4, McKinsey said. She was unable to give further details about the boat or who owned it.

Hundreds of people have died in rickety, run-down boats trying to reach Yemen in search of jobs since Somalia descended into chaos after the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, when rival factions began to fight each other.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since Siad Barre's ouster.

In October, at least 70 people en route to Yemen in search of jobs in the Gulf states died from starvation and dehydration after their boat's engine failed, leaving them adrift off Somalia.

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