Migrants drown off Spanish beach
At least 19 migrants from Morocco drown off Lanzarote after their boat capsized.
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2009 18:06 GMT
Swimmers and surfers attempted to reach the migrants, who struggled in rough waters [AFP]

At least 19 North African migrants have drowned off the coast of Spain's Canary Islands after their overcrowded boat capsized.

The boat, carrying around 28 people from Morocco, overturned just metres from a beach on the island of Lanzarote, at around 1900 GMT on Sunday.

Local residents attempted to reach the migrants, who were struggling in rough waters, before Coast Guard boats arrived to help.

"When we got there we could see those that were alive and the rest were just floating,'' Anibal Betancort, who took part in the rescue, told Cadena SER radio.

Treacherous journey

He said the survivors "were clinging to the sinking boat and screaming".

Betancort added most of the migrants appeared to be between the ages of 25 and 35.

Five bodies, including one of an eight-year-old girl, were recovered on Sunday, Anibal Carrillo, Marine Rescue Service director, told the Associated Press news agency.

Fourteen more were found when rescue operations resumed on Monday.

Thousands of people attempt the treacherous journey from Africa to Spain or the Canary Islands each year, in search of a better life.

Many are caught, but hundreds also die.

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