At least three people have died after a boat capsized off French Guiana carrying about 20 migrants travelling from Brazil to an illegal gold-mining site, local authorities said.
The small wooden boat sank on August 28, but the incident was not reported until a survivor was spotted by a pleasure boat on Tuesday desperately clinging to a buoy in the Kourou channel in the French South American territory.
The Brazilian woman told rescuers she had been on a boat that had capsized after leaving the Brazilian town of Oiapoque, on the river border with French Guiana.
The boat “obviously came from Oiapoque with passengers (of Brazilian nationality) bound for an illegal gold mining site, according to the first statements collected,” said the prosecutor in the French Guiana capital of Cayenne, Samuel Finielz.
“We can consider that there were around 20 people” on board, he told AFP late on Friday.
Air and sea rescue operations launched on Tuesday led to the discovery of three bodies and four survivors, he said.
The police chief in Oiapoque, Charles Correa, told AFP 25 people were on board, including a child of 15 and three crew members.
Finielz said an investigation has been opened into “aggravated manslaughter and human trafficking”.