Spanish boat finds 24 bodies after record immigration rush by Africans
MADRID, Spain – A Spanish boat recovered the bodies of 24 people believed to be African migrants floating in waters off the coast of Mauritania, hundreds of miles south of the Canary Islands, authorities said Wednesday.The news came only hours after police intercepted some 400 Africans trying to reach the Canary Islands – a single-day record – after a dangerous 400-mile voyage in nine overcrowded boats from Mauritania, officials said.Many of the 24 victims had life jackets on them, according to a Labor Ministry official who requested anonymity because she’s forbidden to be identified publicly.The hospital ship found the first five bodies late Tuesday after being alerted by fishing boats in an area 70 miles off the coast of Mauritania, the official said. Nineteen more bodies were found a short while later. All the drowned were thought to be from African countries.Thousands of Africans seeking a better life try to reach Europe in boats to Spain each year. Hundreds are believed to drown in the attempt.The immigrant boats traditionally set out from Morocco or the Western Sahara, sailing across the Strait of Gibraltar to the Spanish mainland or to the Canary Islands, off the coast of northwest Africa.After the massive interception Tuesday, four government ministers held an emergency meeting Wednesday to decide on measures. A Foreign Ministry delegation is scheduled to fly to Mauritania on Thursday for talks with authorities there.Spain also offered to supply Mauritania with boats to help it patrol its coasts and aid to set up immigrant shelters.A report from the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, by the leading Spanish daily El Pais this week estimated there were nearly half a million would-be immigrants gathered there awaiting a chance to travel to Spain.More than 3,000 migrants have reached the Canary Islands from north Africa so far this year, compared to 4,751 in all of 2005 and 8,519 in 2004.Vail, Colorado
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