U.N. officials says at least 39 Ethiopians and Somalis drowned in the Gulf of Aden when they were forced off their boat at gunpoint by smugglers hired to sneak them into Yemen.

The U.N. High Commission for Refugees says 98 people survived the incident near the southern coast of Yemen near Belhaf.

A survivor told U.N. staff that three boats were attempting to smuggle 349 people, when one boat had mechanical trouble near shore.

The survivor said the crew forced the passengers to jump overboard into deep water. Many could not swim.

A U.N. employee in Yemen, Mohammed Godboudin, said his colleagues recovered 39 bodies in Al Ayn and buried them in a traditional ceremony.

The U.N. is housing the survivors in Mayfa'a, Yemen and providing them with temporary identification cards.

The United Nations says in the past eight months, more than two hundred boats smuggling people have arrived in Yemen from Somalia.

The agency says in recent years thousands of Somalis and an increasing number of Ethiopians have tried to make the dangerous crossing to Yemen. Many plan to work illegally in Saudi Arabia or in the Gulf States.