At least 38 people were feared after a boat carrying civilians fleeing insecurity in Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique, sank last week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Thursday.
Many children are feared dead following the incident which allegedly happened on October 29. At least 70 people were believed to be on board the overcrowded vessel which was one of several of its kind making such a journey.
According to the IOM, information about the incident only came to light after survivors made it to safety in Pemba, the provincial capital, and narrated their tragedy to volunteer aid workers.
A woman who survived the incident said several residents of Palma were attempting to flee in order to try and build a new life in Pemba.
Palma lies close to Mozambique’s border with Tanzania and is near one of the world’s largest untapped offshore gas fields.
“Other people held on to cushions from the boat, and some held a cord, but the others drowned. My husband also drowned. The greatest number of deaths were children. Only two children survived,” Uyeca Mpate said.
The IOM Chief of Mission in Mozambique Laura Tomm-Bonde said the organization was prepared to assist in any way it can.
“We stand ready to support the efforts of the Government of Mozambique to assist survivors, internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Cabo Delgado, and the communities that host them.”
The IOM estimates that more than 270 boats from Cabo Delgado carrying more than 13,000 people, including nearly 5,900 children, arrived in Paquetequete, Pemba, in just the last three weeks.
Militant attacks in Cabo Delgado province began as far back as 2017 but the intensity has increased pace this year, with insurgents taking control of important towns for short periods and targeting military and other key targets.
According to the U.N. World Food Programme, more than 300,000 people have fled the violence in Cabo Delgado.