March 29, 2007 / 9:46 PM / 12 years ago

At least 60 dead as boat capsizes off Guinea

CONAKRY (Reuters) - At least 60 people have been killed after a boat carrying around 120 passengers capsized off the coast of Guinea, state television in the West African country said on Thursday.

It said a “pirogue”, or open fishing boat, with 120 people on board had capsized. “Thirty-six people survived,” the television station said, broadcasting images of mostly young survivors being brought ashore.

A senior police official, who asked not to be named, said the accident happened late on Wednesday off the capital Conakry and that the boat had been traveling from Forecariah, some 50 km (30 miles) to the south.

“When we were alerted we sent a rescue team to try to recover bodies. As of this morning, we had counted 57 bodies,” the police officer told Reuters.

It was not immediately clear who the passengers on board the vessel were. Guinea’s road infrastructure is so poorly maintained that many people living in coastal communities use open boats to travel between towns.

But there have also been a series of similar accidents off West Africa in recent years involving migrants illegally trying to reach Spain’s Canary Islands and find work in Europe.

Fleeing poverty, the migrants risk voyages of up to 2,000 km (1,250 miles) from the African coast in the hope of breaching “fortress Europe”. Some 6,000 died en route to the Spanish archipelago last year alone, Spanish officials have said.

Despite its mineral wealth — Guinea is the world’s leading exporter of bauxite, used to make aluminum — the country is mired in poverty, with most of its nearly 10 million people surviving on less than $1 a day.

The accident came just over a week after 65 people were killed when a bridge collapsed under the weight of a truck packed with passengers and merchandise as it traveled to a market in the country’s remote south-east.

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