There are reports from the International Organization for Migration, an agency of the United Nations, that a boat which left Senegal on a journey to the Canary Islands had capsized on Saturday. The boat, which had nearly 200 migrants on it, had capsized when it went up in flames a few hours after it set out on a journey. No fewer than 140 travelers onboard the boat drowned in the incident.
Setting off from the coastal town of Mbour situated in western Senegal, the boat carrying nearly 200 migrants went up in flames in the Atlantic Ocean just around St-Louis, along the northwest coastline of Senegal. The IOM has described the incident as the worst ever shipwreck of the year 2020. It further reports that the incident drew the attention of locals and anglers around the coastal towns who did all they could to rescue the bodies of 20 dead travelers and 59 others still alive, CNN writes.
The news of the shipwreck has drawn reactions from several persons. Taking to his Twitter account, the Senegalese president, Macky Sall, wrote that he learned of the boat engine’s deadly explosion with saddened emotions, stressing that the boat was conveying several young Senegalese nationals.
Horrified by the news, António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, twitted that “Every person searching for a better life deserves safety and dignity. We need safe, legal routes for migrants and refugees.”
Narrating his experience, Dame Mbengue, a survivor of the shipwreck, told reporters that he was one of the 200 migrants traveling on the boat when the sad incident occurred. He said that a fire had started in the boat’s engine, and the crew did all they could to put it out. Unfortunately, the fire spread to the portion where cans of gasoline were stored, leading to a severe explosion.
On how he survived, Mbengue explained that he had held onto a floating can after he jumped into the sea. He was luckily rescued after he was spotted by a passing boat.
In his statement, the IOM’s Senegalese Chief of Mission, Bakary Doumbia, said, “We call for unity between governments, partners and the international community to dismantle trafficking and smuggling networks that take advantage of desperate youth. It is also important that we advocate for enhanced legal channels to undermine the traffickers’ business model and prevent loss of life.”
The International Organization for Migration reveals that there has been a significant increase in dangerous sea travel by West African migrants to the Canary Islands. Statistics show that up to 11,000 migrants have arrived in the Spanish archipelago this year against less than 3,000 for last year. The agency added that while 210 migrants were reported to have drowned in the sea last year, this year has recorded no fewer than 414 deaths.
The Saturday shipwreck follows four others, which had occurred just within one week in the Central Mediterranean in addition to another one in the English Channel.