Senegalese man who risked death to reach Europe wins €400,000 in Spain’s Christmas lottery


He narrowly escaped death trying to reach Europe on a rickety boat, but a Senegalese migrant is now celebrating a windfall of €400,000 in Spain’s Christmas lottery.

Ngagne is one of hundreds of winners who shared the top prize in El Gordo (The Fat One), which takes place every year. This year's draw saw €2.24 billion (£1.63 billion) distributed around the country.

Eight years ago the man, who identified himself only as Ngagne, had arrived in the country as a young Senegalese man with nothing but hope. But on Tuesday Ngagne, 35, joined other lucky holders of the ticket numbered 79140 outside the lottery sales point in Roquetas de Mar, the Andalucian town where he lives.

"I want to give thanks to Spaniards and the Spanish government for rescuing me when I was in the sea," Ngagne, told the radio station Onda Cero, while sobbing for joy.

He said that there had been 65 migrants on board, including the woman who is now his wife, when the boat got into difficulties off the Spanish coast.

Having avoided the ultimate misfortune in the perilous crossing from North Africa, Ngagne began to work in the plastic-sheeted market gardens in the Almería area, where immigrants without papers are prone to exploitation.

“I can’t believe this. I can tell you that at times we didn’t earn five euros between us a day,” Ngagne said, dedicating his stroke of fortune to Antonio, his former employer who had recently laid him off. “He said we had to work things out for ourselves."

Tickets with the winning number for the annual Christmas lottery were only sold at one outlet in Roquetas de Mar, a seaside town of a little over 90,000 inhabitants. The owner of the lottery store, José Martín, celebrated with happy customers but said that “sadly” he had not bought a ticket for himself.

In total, 160 tickets with the same lucky number win the top prize of €4 million. But like Ngagne, most people buy a décimo, or tenth of a ticket, which costs €20.

The Gordo lottery first took place in Cádiz in 1812 and has not missed a year since, continuing through Spain’s civil war between 1936 and 1939. In 1938, there were actually two Christmas lotteries, one held in Burgos by General Franco’s Nationalist regime, and the other in Republican-ruled Barcelona.

A young girl reacts with a banner picturing the number 79,140, the first prize of El Gordo Christmas lottery, at a lottery outlet in Roquetas de Mar, Andalusia, southern Spain, 22 December 2015.A young girl celebrates her win in Roquetas de Mar Photo: EPA