At least 14 migrants die as boat catches fire in Senegal

Mediterranean migrants in search of greener pastures

At least 14 migrants died when a boat caught fire in south Senegal, a local mayor and a health official told AFP on Tuesday.

“We have been able to recover 14 bodies,” David Diatta, the mayor of the coastal town of Kafountine in Casamance, said after the fire on Monday. 

“The toll will likely rise,” he added. 

The town’s chief nurse, Bourama Faboure, said that 21 people had been injured, including four who suffered second-degree burns. 

The dugout had been carrying about 140 people, nearly 90 of whom survived and were able to be identified. 

“There were Guineans, Nigerians, Gambians and Senegalese,” Diatta said.  

But the search continued for those still missing, he said. 

“The survivors are saying that the fire was started by someone smoking a cigarette where the fuel was kept,” the mayor said.

He described how he spoke to one father came from Nigeria to Senegal via Gambia and was “traumatised” by what had happened.

“He still hasn’t found his wife and children,” the mayor said.

“There is no doctor here, only nurses. And we don’t have a morgue so we have to bury the bodies immediately,” Diatta said.

“Their families will never know if they are dead or not.”

Police have launched an investigation into the incident.

Many migrants set off from Senegal to try to reach the Spanish Canary Islands as a gateway into Europe.

The fire comes after at least 23 African migrants died when around 2,000 migrants stormed the heavily fortified border between the Moroccan region of Nador and the Spanish enclave of Melilla on Friday.