At least 30 Somali and Ethiopian migrants trying to reach the Arabian peninsula drowned when their boat capsized off Yemen
UNHCR said unconfirmed reports from survivors placed the death toll as high as 78.
The accident happened Monday when a vessel smuggling 120 people across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia to Yemen capsized as it approached the coast.
“Apparently bodies are washing ashore in various places,” Ron Redmond, spokesman for the U.N. high commissioner for refugees, told reporters in Geneva.
Military officials in Yemen told UNHCR they had rescued 40 people from the capsized boat and buried the bodies of 30 others, Redmond said. But the agency said survivors who made it to a UNHCR center in Yemen claimed up to 78 people had perished.
Three other boats carrying a total of 120 migrants to Yemen reached the shore safely, Redmond said.
According to UNHCR figures, more than 27,000 people fled to Yemen from Somalia last year. Several hundred people have died in the last year making the perilous crossing.
Yemen has increased coastal patrols, forcing smugglers to make the journey across the Gulf of Aden by night, increasing the risk of accidents.
Smugglers' boat capsizes in Gulf of Aden leaving at least 30 people dead