MADRID, Spain – Dozens of migrants trying to reach Europe spent three weeks adrift off the coast of West Africa and threw nearly 50 bodies overboard as their vessel lost power and supplies dwindled, officials said Tuesday.
The boat, which set out from Senegal with as many as 150 people and apparently traveled hundreds of miles, was found Tuesday by a Mauritanian patrol boat, a Spanish Civil Guard official said. It was one of the highest death tolls this year among Africans trying to escape poverty and reach Europe’s southern gateway.
When the vessel was found, there were 100 people aboard and two bodies.
In Mauritania, officials agreed that there were 98 survivors, but otherwise offered slightly different numbers.
Yahfdhou Ould Amar, chief of police for the northern port city of Nouadhibou, said 45 people died in the voyage – presumably from hunger, cold and thirst.
The boat apparently set sail from Senegal on Oct. 16 with 143 people aboard, then was intercepted by authorities on the Moroccan coast after its motor failed, Amar said.