( dpa ) - A total of 157 African would-be migrants have died or gone missing in tragic boat accidents since the beginning of 2008 as they tried to cross the Gulf of Aden from Somalia to Yemen, the United Nations refugee agency said Tuesday.
The deadly traffic in the Gulf of Aden continues unabated, with 132 people dying last weekend and a total of 157 people died or went missing during the first 19 days of January, the Higher Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement.
The statement quoted the UN agency's spokesman William Spindler as saying that a total of 2,452 migrants, most of them Somalis, were recorded arriving in Yemen during the same period.
Spindler highlighted two recent accidents off the Yemeni southern coasts on January 18 and 19.
He said a boat carrying 135 passengers capsized on January 18 causing the death of 114 passengers and two smugglers off the coast of Yemen as the boat neared the end of its voyage from Somalia
Yemeni officials have told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that the incident occurred a few miles off the Ahwar town of the southern Yemeni province of Abyan.
They said local fishermen rescued 30 passengers and recovered bodies of 22 others after the boat ran into rocks and capsized. Around 60 bodies washed up on shores of Ahwar two days later.
On 19 January, 10 women and six children drowned near Yemeni shores after strong winds capsized a two-engine smuggling boat carrying 29 Somalis.
"The 13 male survivors told us that four children had died under their parents' eyes from lack of food, water and exposure. The other two drowned," Spindler said.
The new arrivals said each of them had paid 150 dollars for the trip to Yemen, he added.
"They stated they had left Somalia due to violence in the Mogadishu region, the continuing hostilities between government forces and insurgents," the UNHCR spokesman said.
Hundreds of Somali and Ethiopian migrants die every year making the dangerous crossing of the Gulf of Aden to Yemen on small boats run by smugglers operating from Somali ports.
Last year, more than 113,000 people, most of them Somalis, made the perilous voyage to Yemen, with over 1,400 deaths.
Since the outbreak of civil war in Somalia, Yemen has become a magnet for refugees fleeing violence and drought and a gateway to the oil-rich countries of the Arabian Peninsula and Europe.