A weekend migrant shipwreck off Senegal has left at least 140 people dead, making it the deadliest so far this year, the International Organization for Migration confirmed Thursday.
About 200 passengers set off in the vessel from the Senegalese town of Mbour on Saturday, heading for Spain’s Canary Islands. The boat, however, soon caught fire and sank off Senegal’s northwestern coast near Saint Louis.
It added that, “according to media sources, the Senegalese and Spanish navies, and fishermen who were nearby rescued 59 people and retrieved the remains of 20 others.”
According to the IOM, the boat was bound for Spain’s Canary Islands but caught fire a few hours after departing Mbour, a coastal town in western Senegal, before capsizing near Saint-Louis, on the country’s northwest coast.
“The IOM is deeply saddened by this recent tragedy, which follows four shipwrecks recorded in the Central Mediterranean last week and another in the English Channel,” the statement said.
The number of migrant boat departures from West Africa to the Canary Islands has more than quadrupled this year to 11,000, according to IOM estimates.
Fourteen boats carrying 663 migrants attempted to make this journey in September alone, over a quarter of which were shipwrecked or had an incident, the IOM said.
Last month, 14 boats attempted the voyage, and about one-quarter “were reported to have experienced an incident or shipwreck,” IOM said.
Senegal’s shores were once a major departure point for those hoping to migrate to Europe.
However, in recent years it had become more common for Senegalese to travel over land to Tunisia or Libya before attempting to cross the Mediterranean.