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At Least 140 Dead in 2020's Worst Shipwreck

Boat caught fire between Senegal and Canary Islands
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2020 8:08 AM CDT

(Newser) – At least 140 people drowned off the coast of Senegal in what a United Nations agency says is the deadliest shipwreck so far in 2020. Authorities say the ship, carrying about 200 migrants headed for the Canary Islands, caught fire and capsized a few hours after leaving Senegal on Saturday, the New York Times reports. The United Nations' International Organization for Migration says the Senegalese and Spanish navies, along with local fishing boats, rescued around 60 survivors and recovered around 20 bodies. The Canary Islands, which are part of Spain, have seen a surge in migrant boat arrivals this year, with 14 attempting the crossing in September alone, Al Jazeera reports. More than 400 people have died along the way in 2020, nearly double last year's figure.

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A survivor of Saturday's shipwreck told Senegalese media that an engine fire spread to cans of gasoline, triggering an explosion. Bakary Doumbia, the IOM's chief of mission in Senegal, called "for unity between governments, partners and the international community to dismantle trafficking and smuggling networks that take advantage of desperate youth." He added that improved legal channels for migration would prevent loss of life. Benjamin N. Lawrance, a professor of history at the University of Arizona, tells the Times that migration from Senegal has surged since the country's deeply indebted government sold fishing rights to China and European Union nations, leading to the collapse of fishing stocks. (Read more shipwreck stories.)

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