At least 60 African migrants and two Yemeni crew perished in the treacherous waters off Yemen's coast last weekend, in a boat sinking that has just come to light and is believed to be the deadliest there this year, the United Nations said on Friday.
In the first four months of this year, 16,500 migrants and refugees, mainly Somalis, Ethiopians and Eritreans, have crossed the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea to land in Yemen, seen as a gateway to a better life in the Middle East, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said.
About twice as many crossed in the same period last year.
"We are still seeking information, but it is now confirmed that a boat carrying 60 people from Somalia and Ethiopia and two Yemeni crew sank last Saturday in the Red Sea," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told a news briefing in Geneva.
Local residents buried their bodies which washed ashore near the Bab El Mandeb area off Yemen's coast, he said.
"The tragedy is the largest single loss of life this year of migrants and refugees attempting to reach Yemen via the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden," Edwards said.
It brought the known total of deaths at sea of people trying to reach Yemen to at least 121 so far this year, he said.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Gareth Jones)