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Antananarivo, (UrduPoint News / Pakistan Point – 14th March, 2023 ) : At least 21 migrants died when their boat sank off the coast of Madagascar over the weekend, the island nation’s maritime authorities said on Monday, revising down its earlier toll .
“So far, 21 people have died, two are missing and 24 have survived. We assume that there are 47 people on board, according to information from fishermen who were the first to try to save the wreck,” the director general of the Madagascar Maritime Authority (APMF) Jean Edmond Randrianantenaina told AFP.
The APMF had in an earlier statement listed 22 dead of those who had “secretly taken a boat to Mayotte (French territory), but it sank”.
The accident happened on Saturday.
According to the regional commander of the gendarmerie Jules Tovoson Andriatsirinaina, “all the survivors fled after they reached the shore, for fear of being arrested by authorities”.
“Only one pregnant woman, who was too upset by the accident, was unable to flee and was found where the fishermen had left her,” said the director general of APMF, who visited the scene of the tragedy on Monday .
She would be a “key witness” in the investigations, he said.
The investigators want to find the smugglers, who are suspected to be among the survivors on the run, and establish how they operated.
Many migrants every year try to reach the French territory of Mayotte, which is north of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean.
In 2021, more than 6,500 people were detained trying to enter the territory secretly, according to the French authorities.
There are no viable statistics on how many people have lost their lives attempting such crossings. A report by the French Parliament published in the early 2000s estimated that around 1,000 people died each year at that time.
The representative of the International Organization for Migration in Madagascar and the Comoros, Roger Charles Evina told AFP “these are in fact regular departures, carried out in a clandestine manner” with Mayotte often being the final destination.