At least 30 die in boat capsize off west African coast

ESTERIAS, Gabon (AFP) - At least 30 people died when their boat capsized off the Gabonese capital Libreville, Agence France-Presse journalists and rescue workers said on Thursday, the latest disaster off the west African coast.

Police said the boat, which was carrying 65 people thought to be illegal immigrants, capsized in stormy weather overnight as it was travelling from Nigeria to Libreville.

AFP journalists counted 30 bodies lying along the shore, with the boat still visible in the waters of Cape Esterias, which lies about 40km north of Libreville.

A gendarme who requested anonymity said there were at least eight survivors among the passengers thought to be illegal immigrants from Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso.

Last week, an overloaded boat carrying an estimated 128 people sank off Nigeria's southern coast. An emergency official said Thursday that 29 people have so far been rescued, but that the search for survivors is still ongoing.

Gabon, a small oil-rich nation with a population of 1.5 million, is an attractive destination for illegal immigrants who come their in search of work.

They often reach Gabon by road through Cameroon or by sea from Nigeria or Benin.

The boats they travel in are often overloaded, however, making them an extreme hazard to travel in.

In 2008, when some 20 illegal immigrants died when their boat capsized off the Gabonese coast.