A U.S. Navy ship rescued a small boat carrying about 70 people, some suffering from severe dehydration, in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia, the military said Monday.

The USS Russell responded to a ship distress call on Sunday and found the 45-foot boat, which had been adrift for two days after experiencing serious engine problems, the Navy's Bahrain-based 5th Fleet said in a statement.

"There were approximately 70 personnel on board the vessel, some of whom were in need of immediate medical attention. Seven personnel were transferred to Russell and treated for severe dehydration and malnutrition," the statement said.

The Navy said the Russell was towing the boat toward Somalia where it and the passengers would be turned over to Somali authorities.

The Navy did not identify the boat's passengers. But hundreds of Africans die every year trying to reach Yemen, many of whom drown or are killed by pirates and smugglers in the dangerous waters separating Somalia and the Arabian peninsula.

The Africans that have survived the journey register with the U.N. refugee agency and stay in refugee camps in Yemen, while others take jobs in the cities as laborers for less than a $1 a day.

In 2007, Yemeni authorities said about 5,000 illegal Ethiopian and Somali migrants arrived in Yemen, while nearly 400 died along the way. Out of 88,000 registered refugees in Yemen, about 84,000 are Somali, according to the U.N. refugee agency.