Africa

Africa migrants drown off Yemen as boats sink

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Up to 80 African migrants are feared to have drowned off the south coast of Yemen after their boats capsized, Yemeni officials say.

The migrants, mostly from Ethiopia, were travelling in two boats which were hit by strong wind and waves, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Three Somali migrants were reportedly found alive while the coastguard were searching for any other survivors.

Hundreds of Africans drown each year, trying to reach Yemen in crowded boats.

The ministry quoted coastguards in Aden as saying the first boat went down off the coast of Taez province with 46 people on board.

All those on board had drowned apart from the three Somalis, it said.

The second boat capsized off Lahij province.

It was carrying "between 35 to 40 people, all of them Ethiopians and among them women and children," said the ministry statement.

It was not clear from the statement when the incidents took place, but it said a search was being carried out "in hope of finding survivors".

Thousands of people attempt the dangerous journey from Africa across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen every year.

The UN's refugee agency says more than 74,000 Africans arrived in Yemen in 2009, fleeing "desperate situations of civil war, political instability, poverty, famine and drought in the Horn of Africa".

Yemen is seen as a gateway to a better life in the Middle East or Europe, but people smugglers often crowd the migrants onto old and unseaworthy vessels.

Hundreds of would-be migrants die before reaching their destination.

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