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28 bodies plucked from sea off Yemen after sinking

by Staff Writers
Aden, Yemen (AFP) Jan 6, 2011
Yemen's coast guard has recovered 28 bodies from the sea out of 46 Africans feared drowned after their boat capsized at the weekend, a security official said on Thursday.

"The Yemeni coast guard has retrieved the bodies of 25 African immigrants who drowned on Sunday" near Bab al-Mandab strait, which links the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, the official said.

Eight bodies were found early Thursday, one day after "we buried 17 Ethiopians," he said. Three other bodies had been recovered on Tuesday, raising the total death toll to 28.

Abdullah Ahmed, a Red Crescent official in Bab al-Mandab, confirmed the toll, while adding the victims' bodies were decayed.

"We are no longer able to tell the difference between the Ethiopians and the Somalis or the males from the females. We found them on the coast in a horrible condition as they were disfigured," he told AFP.

"All we could do was bury them."

Five people escaped alive, including three Ethiopians and two Somalis, said the UN refugee agency, while two Yemeni people-smugglers also survived, according to the security official.

Contradictory accounts have emerged of events surrounding the boat's sinking, which happened on Sunday morning.

Yemen's interior ministry said on Monday that "80 Africans" were feared to have drowned in the sinking "caused by high winds and a tsunami."

But the security official, who declined to be named, said the accident was due to engine failure.

Each year tens of thousands of Ethiopians and Somalis make the perilous crossing to Yemen in the hope of escaping the economic deprivation, persecution and conflicts of their home countries.

Many die on board often overcrowded and rotten small boats, while others, already weakened by long journeys from the hinterland to the coast, die at the hands of ruthless smugglers.

The migrants generally slip by boat into south Yemen, itself one of the world's poorest countries, before heading towards the border with oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

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