At least six people died when a pirogue capsized on Wednesday in Saint-Louis, in the north of Senegal, on the migratory route linking the country to the Spanish archipelago of the Canaries, fire brigades and a local official told AFP.
According to the local media, it was a migrant boat and the death toll could be much higher, as these canoes are often packed and can contain dozens of people.
"There were six deaths and four survivors off Saint-Louis", said a commander of the city's fire brigade. This information was confirmed by a local official and a source close to the investigation who did not wish to give his name.
"A dugout canoe overturned. We are continuing to search the river and the mouth," said the firefighter.
"The boat came from the south of Senegal but I can neither confirm nor deny that they were migrants," said the local official.
The accident took place in the early morning near the coast and it is possible that some of them fled, he also said.
Several officials interviewed by AFP declined to comment or said they were waiting for more information. Communication is locked. Local fishermen pointed out that the area was difficult to navigate.
According to the NGO Caminando Fronteras, which obtains its information from calls from migrants or their relatives, three other boats, leaving from Senegal and carrying a total of more than 300 migrants, are missing.
One of them left on 27 June from Kafountine, a small coastal town in the south of Senegal around 1,700 kilometres off the Canary Islands, with around 200 people on board. The other two left from the Mbour region.
The search for the missing migrants' boats resumed on Wednesday, according to Spanish rescuers.
According to the Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, between 28 June and 9 July, 260 Senegalese "in distress" were "rescued in Moroccan territorial waters", without specifying whether these boats corresponded to those reported by the Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. NGO.
Caminando Fronteras reacted in a press release on Wednesday, stating that it had been able to verify that the rescues mentioned by the Senegalese government corresponded to other boats "that also left the Senegalese coast, but not to those that had the 300 wanted people on board".