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55 drown off Somali coast

Friday 21 Dec 2012 7:25 a.m.

At least 55 people are believed to have drowned after an overcrowded boat capsized off the Somali coast, the UN refugee agency says.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says the boat was believed to be carrying Somalis and Ethiopians to Yemen when it ran into trouble after leaving the port of Bosasso in northeast Somalia.

Five survivors have been found.

So far, 23 bodies have been recovered, including that of a young boy. The remaining 32 passengers are presumed to have drowned.

It is thought to be the worst incident in the Gulf of Aden since February 2011 when 57 Somali migrants died attempting to reach Yemen, which is seen as a gateway to wealthier parts of the Middle East.

The UNHCR estimates that 100,000 people have crossed the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden this year, often in unseaworthy boats.

"Without doubt, the Gulf of Aden is now the deadliest route for people fleeing conflict, violence and human rights abuses in the Horn of Africa," said the UNHCR Representative for Somalia, Bruno Geddo.

Ninety-five people have now died in the waters between Somalia and Yemen this year.

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