MADRID, Spain – Up to 50 migrants were missing in rough seas south of the Canary Islands Thursday after their boat capsized, an Interior Ministry official said Thursday.
Two Marine Rescue service vessels managed to pull 48 migrants aboard after the open, wooden fishing boat carrying an estimated 100 migrants capsized when hit by waves some 13 feet high, said Jose Segura, chief ministry official for the islands.
Segura said the rescue workers had been trying to calm the migrants down for nearly an hour as they tried to approach the boat once it was spotted by a Spanish air force plane.
"Some of them (migrants) got nervous and started to stand up when suddenly the boat was hit by a wave in the side and they all fell into the water," said Segura.
Five merchant ships, two helicopters and a French aircraft carrier, which happened to be in the region, were taking part in the search.
Segura said the 48 rescued were in good health and would be taken to the Canary Islands.
More than 30,000 immigrants from Africa seeking a better life in Europe were intercepted while trying to reach the Canary Islands in crowded boats in 2006. Several thousand others are believed to have drowned while attempting the journey.