Up to 55 people have drowned or are assumed missing off the coast of Somalia, according to the UN refugee agency.
The UNHCR said the overcrowded boat which left the northern port of Bosasso in Somalia on Tuesday, had amounted to the worst such disaster in the area in almost two years.
Most of the victims were Somalis and Ethiopians.
Twenty-three bodies have been recovered and the rest are presumed to have drowned.
The agency said that the incident represents “the biggest loss of life” in the Gulf of Aden since February 2011 when 57 Somali refugees and migrants from the Horn of Africa drowned while attempting to reach Yemen.
Andy Needham of UNHCR told Al Jazeera that many of the men were headed to Oman and Yemen to work in the frankincense trade.
“People come on the dangerous journey from different countries for different reasons,” Needham said of the “mixed migration”.
At least five people survived the accident. They said the boat was overcrowded and capsized just 15 minutes after leaving the port in Somalia’s northern semi-autonomous state of Puntland.
This year, some 100,000 people have crossed the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, despite warnings about the risks such trips involve, the agency said.
In addition to using unseaworthy and overcrowded boats, those fleeing the Horn of Africa often fall prey to unscrupulous smugglers, in whose hands they can face exploitation, extortion and even death, the agency warned.
It said over a hundred people had drowned or gone missing in the waters between Somalia and Yemen this year.