Thirteen people drowned and eight are missing after a small skiff packed with more than seven dozen people capsized while getting aid from a U.S. Navy vessel in the Gulf of Aden.
The skiff was attempting to travel from Somalia to Yemen, and was packed with 75 Ethiopians and 10 Somalis, was spotted adrift in the gulf by a South Korean warship, which asked the guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill to provide assistance, according to the Combined Maritime Forces, which conducts anti-piracy patrols off the east coast of Africa.
The 9,500-ton, 513-foot long Churchill sent an inflatable boat to the aid of the skiff. After determining the skiff was without power, the inflatable towed it out of shipping lanes toward the Somali coast. Then, U.S. sailors attempted to distribute fresh supplies to those aboard the skiff. As they did so, the Africans rushed to one side of the vessel, capsizing it, and sending all 85 passengers into the ocean.
Crews from the Churchill and an Australian patrol aircraft were able to rescue 61 of the skiff’s passengers. Thirteen drowned and eight were not found. The Navy is investigating the incident.
The Gulf of Aden has been in the news over the last two years because in 2009, maritime piracy reached its highest level in the recorded history of pirate attacks, and of the 49 successful hijackings in 2008, 42 occurred off the Somali Coast. Over half of the world’s pirate attacks occur in the Gulf of Aden.