CALABAR, Nigeria, March 21 Nigerian authorities
have so far rescued 29 survivors from a boat carrying scores of
trafficked immigrants that sank on its way to Gabon, the
National Emergency Management Agency said on Thursday.
At least 45 people drowned, according a local doctor who
said he received the bodies.
Initial reports from traders at the dock from where the boat
departed suggested there were 166 people on board, but emergency
agency spokesman Yushua Shuaib said on Thursday there were
actually 128 people, based on the boat's manifest.
"The boat originated from Benin. Security agencies are still
investigating the allegations that the boat was involved in
human trafficking," he said. "The rescue operation is still
He said the agency had itself only been made aware of nine
bodies recovered so far.
Survivors told Reuters on Wednesday the boat had been
carrying illegal immigrants trafficked to Gabon, an oil
producing state of around 1.5 million people that enjoys
relative prosperity by west and central African standards.
Trafficking routes from West Africa to Europe through
Spain's Canary Islands are well known, but Gabon is also top
destination for immigrants seeking a better life.
In July 2008, the bodies of 37 suspected illegal migrants
were found dead on the seafront of Gabon's capital Libreville,
after a boat capsized taking the same Nigeria to Gabon route.
(Reporting by Afolabi Sotunde; Writing additional reporting by
Tim Cocks in Lagos; Editing by Alison Williams)