A woman who was the only person pulled from a sinking dinghy in the Atlantic Ocean has told her rescuers that the boat had left Africa a week earlier carrying 53 people.
Spain's Maritime Rescue Service said Friday (August 20) that an inflatable dinghy was spotted by a merchant ship on Thursday, 255 kilometers south of the Canary Islands. The ship, 'Evros', alerted Spanish emergency services, according to an official.
Clinging to the sinking dinghy was a sole survivor – next to her were a dead man and a dead woman, the rescue service official said. The woman later told rescuers that the boat had left Western Sahara a week earlier carrying 53 passengers from Ivory Coast.
According to the Spanish news agency EFE, emergency services said the woman was in her thirties. She was airlifted to hospital on Gran Canaria and was suffering from dehydration, the agency reported.
Helena Maleno Garzón, a well-known migrant rights activist, tweeted on Friday that the victims of the shipwreck included 16 women and a two-year-old boy traveling with his mother who was six months pregnant.
Missing without trace
Shipwrecks in the Atlantic Ocean between the western coast of Africa and Spain's Canary Islands are notoriously hard to verify and many victims' bodies are never recovered. The boats used by migrants attempting to make the crossing are often unseaworthy and overloaded, with fifty or more people on board.
In recent weeks, several migrant boats have set off from the African coast between Tarfaya in Morocco or El Aaiun in Western Sahara, headed for the Canary Islands, EFE reports. The boats have gone missing without trace.
The UN migration agency IOM recorded the deaths of 250 migrants in the first six months of 2021, double the number recorded in the previous year. However, the IOM says many more people are believed to have drowned, given reports by civil society organizations of boats going missing – so-called "invisible shipwrecks" – on the route. The community organization Caminando Fronteras reported that as many as 2,000 people lost their lives trying to make the crossing in the first half of this year.