NIAMEY (Reuters) - Around 10 migrants from Niger have died of thirst and 50 are missing after one of the vehicles they were travelling in broke down in the Sahara, the governor of the Niger's northern region of Agadez said on Tuesday.
Although the number of West Africans seeking to reach Europe has dropped in recent years, the route across the Sahara is still used by some migrants from the region and those from farther afield. Hundreds of those who make it to the Mediterranean have drowned trying to cross in recent months.
"Two vehicles left for a neighboring country and when one of them broke down, ten people sadly died," Garba Maikido, governor of the desert region of Agadez, said on state television.
"About 50 people are still missing and only about 15 were saved," Maikido added. "This migration problem is a big challenge for the region."
Earlier in the day, Maouli Abdouramane, mayor of the town of Arlit, north of the capital of Agadez, said survivors who had managed to return to Arlit had alerted the authorities.
The migrants had set off across the Sahara towards Algeria in mid-October, but scattered to find water after their vehicle broke down, Abdouramane said.
More than 32,000 migrants have arrived in southern Europe from Africa so far this year. Refugees from the civil war in Syria have added to the flow of migrants looking for a better life in Europe.
Two separate incidents in southern Italy earlier this month underscored the dangers involved when 366 Eritrean migrants drowned in one disaster and around 200 were missing after another boat sank just over a week later.
(Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalatchi; Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)