Image grab from handout video footage by the Portuguese air force shows migrants in the water waiting for rescue after their boat caught fire.

At least forty (40) people suspected to be migrants have died after their boat capsized off the coast of Mauritania, UN agencies said on Friday.

A boat capsized on Thursday off the West African coast between the Mauritanian city of Nouadhibou and Dakhla in Western Sahara.

Rescue operations by the Mauritanian coastguard found one survivor, who was brought back to Nouadhibou, according to a statement by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the refugee agency UNHCR.

It is believed that the boat embarked towards the Canary Islands from Dakhla some days ago before facing problems with the engine.

Passengers, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa and including Guineans, were stranded on the boat and began suffering from extreme dehydration, the statement added.

The IOM and UNHCR called for more efforts “to dismantle the smuggling and trafficking networks that thrive off the desperation of migrants and refugees looking to travel to Europe by arranging these journeys.”

Many refugees and migrants transit through Mauritania in north-west Africa, before attempting to cross the sea to reach Europe.

In December, more than 60 bodies were recovered off the coast of Nouadhibou after a boat carrying migrants, bound for Spain from Gambia, capsized in the area. (dpa/NAN)

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