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Dozens dead or missing in latest Gulf of Aden tragedy

Briefing notes

Dozens dead or missing in latest Gulf of Aden tragedy

4 November 2008

Tragedy struck again in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday morning (Nov. 2) when up to 40 people on a smuggling boat carrying 115 desperate people across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia were forced overboard in deep water off the coast of Yemen. Twelve bodies have so far washed up on the beach in Alam and 28 remain missing.

The remaining 75 boat people survived and have arrived in UNHCR's Ahwar reception centre where they are receiving help.

Survivors told UNHCR that the boat departed from northern Somalia on Friday (31 October) with 115 passengers, mainly Somalis and Ethiopians and including some women and children. The voyage from Somalia to Yemen usually takes some 36 hours. On Sunday, as the boat was within sight of the Yemeni coast but still in deep water, the smugglers demanded more money from all passengers, who had already paid $100 each prior to departure. Survivors said those who did not or could not pay extra were severely beaten by the smugglers and up to 40 people - mostly Ethiopians - were thrown overboard despite their pleas for mercy.

One person died yesterday (3 Nov.) in the MSF [Médecins Sans Frontières] clinic in Ahwar as a result of severe injuries inflicted by the smugglers. Others are being treated for head wounds and other injuries.