As many as 80 people are feared dead after two boats carrying African migrants capsized off the coast of southern Yemen.

Yemen's interior ministry said on Monday that the migrants were trying to cross to the country when their boats overturned in high winds.

"The accident was caused by high winds and a tsunami, which capsized the two boats taking them towards the coast," an interior ministry statement said, quoting the coast guard in the southern port city of Aden.

One boat with 46 migrants, most of them Ethiopians, "capsized in a coastal region ... of Taez province, with all those on board drowning except for three Somalis who survived", it said.

The ministry said another boat was carrying between 30 to 45 people, including women and children, when it went down off the coast of the southern province of Lahij.

"Their fate is not yet known," it said.

The ministry said a search was under way. It did not specify what day the incidents took place.
 
Many African migrants try to reach Yemen, which is seen as a gateway to Europe and the oil-rich countries of the Arabian Gulf.

Hundreds of people perish every year in the perilous exodus that takes thousands of desperate Somalis and Ethiopians to Yemen in small boats run by human traffickers operating from Somali ports.

Source: Agencies