Death toll rises from Mauritania ship sinking incident as authorities recover more bodies


Death toll rises to 62 from the tragic sinking of a fishing boat carrying migrants bound for Canary Islands after authorities recovered four more bodies on Friday, December 06. There are concerns the toll will continue to rise. The captain of the vessel is thought to be among those who died.

IOM is now focusing on helping survivors – 85 men, women and at least ten minors who managed to swim to shore after the vessel sank in rough seas, recover from shock and receive appropriate medical treatment. Specific health vulnerabilities are also being identified.

An IOM doctor is now working alongside Mauritanian authorities in Nouadhibou to assess cases. Two of the organization’s psychologists offered psychosocial assistance.

At least 150 people were thought to be aboard the vessel, which began its journey last Wednesday from Gambia. IOM is now working with the ICRC in Mauritania to link families who believe their loved ones were aboard the boat, with consular officials who began conducting interviews with the survivors on Thursday. Seventy-nine of the survivors are from Gambia and six are Senegalese.

“We have been receiving calls from families in Gambia who believe their loved-ones were on the boat,” said IOM Mauritania Chief of Mission Laura Lungarotti. “This is one of our priorities at this time.”

IOM’s Missing Migrant’s Project reports 158 people have died in 11 confirmed fatal shipwrecks this year along the 1,400km-long Western Africa migration route which runs from Cabo Verde to the Canary Islands. Eight of the earlier fatal trips began in Morocco and two in Mauritania. At least 43 people died in five reported tragedies at sea in 2018.

The Project reports that collecting reliable data along this largely unpatrolled route is challenging and vessels may be disappearing without a trace.

IOM will work with the Mauritanian and consular authorities to assist the survivors with potential family reunification and return to their countries of origin. (Source: IOM)