At least 140 people have drowned after a boat carrying around 200 migrants sank off the Senegalese coast, according to the UN migration agency. The shipwreck is the deadliest so far this year.
Senegalese and Spanish navy units as well as nearby fishermen rescued 59 people and retrieved the remains of 20 others, according to local media reports.
According to UN migration agency IOM, the vessel left Mbour -- a coastal town in western Senegal -- on Saturday (October 24), bound for the Canary Islands. The boat caught fire a few hours after departure and capsized near Saint-Louis, on Senegal’s northwest coast, IOM wrote in a press statement released on Thursday.
IOM also announced it had arranged a mission with the Senegalese government to travel to Saint-Louis to assess the needs of survivors and provide "immediate psychosocial assistance."
The shipwreck brings the number of reported deaths on the Atlantic migrant route so far this year to at least 414. In all of 2019, there were 210 reported fatalities on this route.
Spike in Canary Islands arrivals
The number of departures from West Africa to the Canary Islands has significantly increased in recent weeks. In the four weeks between September 28 and October 25, an estimated 5,200 migrants arrived on the islands, almost twice as many as in September and more than six times as many as in August.
An estimated 11,000 migrants have arrived to the Canary Islands so far this year, compared to 2,557 arrivals during the same period last year, according to IOM data. In 2006, over 32,000 people arrived on the islands -- the largest number to date.
Many migrants bound for the Canary Islands set sail from Senegal: In September alone, IOM recorded 14 boats carrying 663 migrants that left Senegal for the Canary Islands. Of these boats, 26% experienced an incident or shipwreck, according to IOM.