At least 18 Somalis die when boat capsizes off Puntland

BOSASO, Somalia Tue Dec 18, 2012 12:44pm EST

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BOSASO, Somalia (Reuters) - At least 18 Somalis drowned when their boat sank and their bodies washed ashore near the port city of Bosaso in Somalia's northern breakaway region of Puntland, a government official said on Tuesday.

The Puntland official said authorities believed a boat carrying illegal Somali migrants had capsized, and that it was likely that the death toll could rise.

African migrants often use unseaworthy boats to try to reach Yemen, seen as a gateway to wealthier parts of the Middle East and the West. Hundreds of the migrants have perished at sea.

"Today we found 18 dead bodies of Somalis on a beach 17 km away from Bosaso," Seinab Ugas Yasin, the assistant health minister in the semi-autonomous region told Reuters.

"The dead bodies include those of 10 women, seven men and that of a baby. We also found 5 people alive," she said.

Yasin gave no further details, but said authorities were looking for more dead people. Residents said the ill-fated boat had been carrying about 80 people from Bosaso.

At least 27 people were believed to have died in April after two boats that had set out from Somalia sank off the coast of Yemen.

(Reporting by Abdiqani Hassan and Abdi Sheikh; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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