21 migrants die in boat sinking off Madagascar: authorities
At least 21 migrants died when their boat sank off the coast of Madagascar over the weekend, the island nation’s maritime authorities said on Monday, revising downwards its earlier toll.
“To date, 21 people have died, two are missing and 24 have survived. We assume that there were 47 people on board, according to information from fishermen who were the first to try rescue the shipwrecked,” director general of the Madagascar Maritime Authority (APMF) Jean Edmond Randrianantenaina told AFP.
The APMF had in an earlier statement listed 22 dead of those who had “clandestinely taken a boat headed to (the French territory of) Mayotte, but that sank”.
The accident occurred on Saturday.
According to regional gendarmerie commander Jules Tovoson Andriatsiriniaina, “all the survivors fled once they reached the shore, for fear of being arrested by authorities”.
“Only one pregnant woman, too distressed by the accident, was unable to flee and was found where the fishermen had left her,” said APMF’s director general, who visited the scene of the tragedy on Monday.
She would be “a key witness” in the investigations, he said.
The investigators want to track down the smugglers, who are suspected to be among the survivors on the run, and establish how they operated.
Many migrants try each year to reach the French territory of Mayotte, which lies north of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
In 2021, more than 6,500 people were detained trying to enter the territory clandestinely, according to French authorities.
There are no viable statistics on how many people have lost their lives attempting such crossings. A French senate report published in the early 2000s estimated that, at that time, around 1,000 people were dying each year.
International Organization for Migration representative in Madagascar and the Comoros, Roger Charles Evina told AFP “these are really recurrent departures, carried out in a clandestine manner” with Mayotte often being the final destination.