Al Mukalla: The governor of Yemen’s remote island of Socotra said on Wednesday that 35 passengers of a cargo vessel that sank off the island were rescued and the search is in progress to find more survivors.
Speaking to Gulf News from an emergency room set up by local authorities to direct search operation, Abdullah Salim Al Socotri said that a vessel carrying at least 60 people, including women and children, sank off the island’s Qalansiyah town on Monday and his office was tipped on the incident on Tuesday.
“The vessel was heading to the island from the city of Al Mukalla [in Hadramout province]. We think that it capsized due to its overloaded cargo or a technical fault,” he said.
The internationally recognised government formed a committee of ministers and local officials to lead rescue and search operation and sent an appeal for help to the Saudi-led coalition and international navies fighting piracy in the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden. The governor was optimistic about finding more survivors as fleeing passengers boarded 13 smaller rescue boats that were on board.
“The survivors told us that all the remaining passengers boarded the boats, but got lost at sea. The passengers must be hungry and thirsty since they have not had anything since Monday.”
The governor said only local fishermen from Socotra and Hadramout are taking part in the operation. In Hadramout, shipping officials said the vessel was initially used for fishing and then used to carry cargo and passengers to Socotra and lacked minimum safety standards.
Residents of the remote island have been forced into taking these perilous voyages on cargo ships or vessels after flights to the island were suspended since the beginning of the war against Al Houthis early last year.
Officials say that even when flights were available, poverty-stricken people prefer to sail to the island on cheaper wooden or fibreglass ships or vessels.
Meanwhile, on the ground, fighting intensified between the government forces and Al Houthis in the northern province Hajja and the southern province of Shabwa.
Local army commanders loyal to President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi said on Wednesday that they killed several Al Houthis and arrested a field commander after heavy clashes in Haradh and Medi towns near the border with Saudi Arabia.
Similar heavy clashes erupted in Shabwa when the government forces attacked Al Houthis positions in Bayhan district. On Tuesday night, warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition hit several military sites controlled by Al Houthis in northern Sana’a.