More than 60 migrants are presumed to have died on board a pirogue that left the coast of Senegal at the beginning of July and was found off the coast of Cape Verde on Monday, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Wednesday.
An estimated 63 people died and 38 survived, including four children aged between twelve and sixteen, IOM spokeswoman Safa Msehli told AFP.
The boat was spotted in the Atlantic on Monday around 150 nautical miles (277 km) from the Cape Verdean island of Sal by a Spanish fishing vessel, which alerted the Cape Verdean authorities, said the police of the archipelago, around 600 km from the Senegalese coast.
In addition to the 38 survivors, the rescuers found the remains of seven people, the spokeswoman reported.
According to the testimonies of the survivors quoted by the Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other sources, the boat had left the town of Fass Boye (west), on the Senegalese coast, on 10 July with 101 passengers on board, all Senegalese with the exception of one Bissau-Guinean.
As a result, 56 people are reported missing. "Generally, when people are reported missing following a shipwreck, they are presumed dead", explained the spokeswoman.
The authorities have so far refrained from commenting on what happened after the pirogue left on 10 July.
But "those reported missing are all dead", Abdou Karim Sarr, an official of the Local Artisanal Fishing Councils (CLPA), a professional organisation, told AFP.
There is "sadness, consternation, despair and total calm", Moda Samb, a local councillor from Fass Boye, told AFP.
According to Mr Samb, 98% of the occupants of the pirogue were from Fass Boye: "They were born and raised" in this fishing village.
"One of the survivors who spoke to his father on the phone told him that the others (missing) were dead," he said. "Other (families) are waiting to find out if their children are among the survivors", he said.
Cape Verde lies on the maritime migration route used every year by thousands of Africans fleeing poverty or war for Europe, or hoping for a better life, despite the danger of the journey which costs hundreds of them their lives.
They travel aboard modest boats or motorised pirogues supplied by smugglers who charge a fee for the journey. Many land in the Canary Islands, the Spanish archipelago and gateway to Europe.
Numerous accounts tell of the perils of the journey, subject to the vagaries of the weather, engine damage, thirst and hunger.
The Cape Verdean authorities said they had mobilised all necessary resources to assist the passengers, seven of whom were hospitalised after disembarking on the island of Sal on Tuesday.
The Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was working to repatriate its nationals "as soon as possible".
Around 90 migrants from Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone had already been rescued in Cape Verdean waters in mid-January.
Senegal has suffered several migration tragedies in recent years.
Sixteen migrants died on the night of 23-24 July when their boat sank near Dakar. At least 13 Senegalese had lost their lives a few days earlier off the coast of Morocco.
At the end of July, the Senegalese government presented a national strategy to combat irregular migration, focusing on prevention, border control, repression, and the return and reintegration of migrants.