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60 migrants feared dead as boat capsizes



A small boat carrying migrants has capsized off Guinea – Bissau , a port official said, adding that the vessel may have had more than 60 people on board when it set off.

Commander Siga Batista said the pirogue , a narrow wooden fishing vessel , sank on Monday night off the impoverished West African country , which has 200 kilometres (120 miles ) of coastline and no patrol ships to save lives on the high seas .

“ An overloaded pirogue , transporting illegal migrants, capsized in our waters, ” Batista told AFP by telephone , saying that the fisheries surveillance department had alerted him to the disaster.
“ We don’ t know how many people were on board when the boat sank , nor their identity or even their nationality . But according to information that has reached me there were more than 60 people on board the pirogue , ” Batista added .

No survivors have been found but local radio stations have asked fishermen to tell authorities if they spot any bodies or passengers still alive.

“ Due to the financial situation , we have had difficulty organising a rescue operation , ” Batista said.

The coastal surveillance agency has two speedboats , but these are often prevented from leaving the port due to lack of fuel , a navy officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Guinea – Bissau , a former Portuguese colony , is one of the world ’ s poorest countries.

The 44th anniversary of independence on September 24 passed without festivities as all available financial resources were put towards organising legislative elections scheduled for November 18 .

The country has been in the grip of a power struggle since August 2015 and many hope the polls will help to end the long – running political crisis .

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