September 28, 2008

52 Somalis Die Fleeing Homeland

A disabled smugglers' boat loaded with Somali refugees drifted into Yemeni coastal waters but not before at least 52 people died, U.N. officials said Sunday.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said another 71 people were still alive when the vessel was spotted by coast guard crews Sept. 21, CNN reported. The refugees, ages 2-40, had been adrift without food or water for 18 days, officials for the U.N. agency's Yemeni office said.

The agency said the survivors -- who had paid $70-$100 each to be transported across the Gulf of Aden to escape drought, poverty and violence in their homeland -- were abandoned by the boat's crew.

"The knife-wielding crew of the smuggling boat told passengers they would travel to the Somali city of Bossaso in a smaller boat to recharge a battery and then return as soon as possible," the agency said. "They never returned."

The victims included 38 men and 10 women who died while at sea and whose bodies were thrown overboard. Four more died at a medical facility after the boat was found and towed to shore in Yemen.