A Spanish ship has rescued nearly 90 Africans from a boat that was sinking in waters off Mauritania. Two of the travelers died, dozens were treated for hypothermia and at least one person had fingers amputated because of frostbite.
The Foreign Ministry said it is negotiating with African countries to find one that will take in the immigrants. It is talking mainly with Senegal, suspected of being the point of departure.
Destitute Africans regularly risk their lives to try to reach Spain's Canary Islands and thus gain a toehold in Europe.
A Spanish fishing boat came across the immigrant vessel on Tuesday and found it taking on water and at risk of sinking. The Africans a total of 89 including one who had died were brought aboard.
A Spanish hospital ship that tends to fishermen off the coast of West Africa was summoned and took charge of the Africans. Another African died on the hospital ship.
Twenty-five people were treated for conditions including hypothermia, and at least one person had fingers amputated because of prolonged exposure to cold temperatures on the open sea, said the Labor Ministry, which is responsible for the hospital ship.
Senegalese officials said they had not yet been informed of the incident, but said that the country would normally take in any such boat that left from its shores.
"If it's a boat that left from Senegal, they'll bring them back to Senegal," said Lt. Colonel Allioune Ndiaye, a spokesman for Senegal's task force dealing with the illegal migrant issue. Ndiaye said this holds true even if the boat is stopped in international waters.
Last year more than 30,000 immigrants were intercepted while sailing from Africa to the Canary Islands in small, crowded boats, and officials in the islands say more than 500 died along the way.