A small boat carrying migrants has capsized off Guinea Bissau, a port official said, adding that the vessel may have had more than 60 people on board when it set off.
Commander Siga Batista said the pirogue, a narrow wooden fishing vessel, sank on Monday night off the impoverished West African country, which has 200 kilometres (120 miles) of coastline and no patrol ships to save lives on the high seas.
“An overloaded pirogue, transporting illegal migrants, capsized in our waters,” Batista told AFP by telephone, saying that the fisheries surveillance department had alerted him to the disaster.
“We don’t know how many people were on board when the boat sank, nor their identity or even their nationality. But according to information that has reached me there were more than 60 people on board the pirogue,” commander Batista added.
No survivors have been found but local radio stations have asked fishermen to tell authorities if they spot any bodies or passengers still alive.
“Due to the financial situation, we have had difficulty organising a rescue operation,” the commander said.
The coastal surveillance agency has two speedboats, but these are often prevented from leaving the port due to lack of fuel, a navy officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony, is one of the world’s poorest countries.
The 44th anniversary of independence on September 24 passed without festivities as all available financial resources were put towards organising legislative elections scheduled for November 18.
The country has been in the grip of a power struggle since August 2015 and many hope the polls will help to end the long-running political crisis.