24 North African migrants, including a pregnant woman and many children, died when their boat capsized off the island of Lanzarote, Spanish officials said yesterday.
The boat, which was loaded with at least 30 people foundered just 20 metres from the coast in Lanzarote, about 125 km off the coast of Africa. Residents and a surfer managed to save six people alive from the waters.
At least 15 of the dead were children and teenagers aged between seven and 17.
Rescue workers managed to retrieve the bodies of 19 migrants and discovered another three bodies in a hard-to-reach bay surrounded by cliffs. Several of the passengers died because they had got trapped under the hull of the boat.
The migrants had set off from the Moroccan city of Tanger, hoping to reach Spain illegally, according to Spanish radio reports.
Thousands of Africans are believed to have died by drowning or from exposure recently in their desperate efforts to reach Spain.
Tighter maritime frontier controls have contributed to reducing the influx of migrants, thousands of whom nevertheless land annually on Spain's southern coast and the Canary Islands.