Two refugee boats sink offshore Yemen, 27 feared dead [Archives:2003/633/Local News]

April 27 2003

MOGADISHU, April 24 (Reuters) – At least 27 people were feared dead after two boats which had set out from Somalia sank off the coast of Yemen, survivors said on Thursday.
The boats carrying more than 200 Somali and Ethiopian refugees had left the coastal Somali village of Marera for Yemen on April 17, people in Marera said.
“We were close to the Yemeni shore when we saw water filling from a hole at the bottom of the boat,” Mohamed Haji, a survivor told Reuters.
“The boat toppled when passengers moved to the side.”
Some of the survivors swam a kilometer to safety. The rest were rescued by Yemeni villagers living near the shore where the boats capsized.
Survivors said 17 of the dead were Ethiopians and the rest were Somali nationals.
The cause of the other boat's sinking was not immediately known.
Port authorities at Aden said they had not heard of the incident.
In January, more than 80 Somalia refugees were feared dead after their boat caught fire and sank off Yemen.
Yemen is a key route for Somalis fleeing their war-torn Horn of Africa nation to Arab states in the oil-rich Gulf region.
Officials in Mogadishu said lately many Ethiopians had also been trying to travel illegally through neighboring Somalia to Gulf states.
Somalia descended into chaos in 1991 following the ousting of Mohammed Siad Barre, and is now split between rival warlords and a transitional government in the capital Mogadishu.