Friday, 28 August 2015

2 migrant boats capsize off Libyan coast, hundreds feared dead

Two boats carrying migrants capsized off the Libyan coast, with hundreds feared dead, a news report said on Friday.

More than 100 bodies had been taken to hospital in the nearest town of Zuwara on the western Libyan coast, the BBC reported, citing a local resident, with hundreds more missing.

The coast guard managed to rescue 201 people, but many more were apparently trapped in the hold of the larger vessel, the report said.

The first boat, with around 50 people, signalled for help on Thursday. The second one was carrying around 400 passengers when it sank later, it said.

The bodies taken to hospital were of migrants from Syria, Bangladesh and southern African countries, the resident reportedly told the BBC.

“We have recovered 30 bodies so far and rescued dozens of people, with dozens more still missing after a boat carrying around 200 migrants sank off [the western port of] Zuwara,” a coast guard official told AFP.

"We are working with very limited resources. Most of the boats we use are fishing boats that we borrow from their owners," he said.

The migrants so far accounted for were all of African origin, the official said, adding that rescue efforts were ongoing but would be “intensified” on Friday morning.

On Wednesday, around 17 migrants drowned after their boat capsized off the same coast. The coast guard said 20 people were saved, mostly from Nigeria and Ghana.

The same day, around 30 bodies were recovered from the hull of a boat carrying some 400 migrants, intercepted 50km north of Libya, according to the Italian coast guard.

The victims were apparently asphyxiated by the engine. The BBC put the number of bodies found at 51.

The sinking comes a day after at least 55 bodies were discovered on three overcrowded migrant boats, 52 of whom were found in the hold of one wooden vessel off Libya’s coast.

Wednesday’s gruesome discovery was made by a Swedish coast guard vessel whose crew plucked hundreds of other migrants from the waters off the North African nation.

People smugglers have taken advantage of the chaos gripping Libya since the 2011 uprising toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi to step up their lucrative business.

But the Mediterranean crossing is treacherous, and more than 2,300 migrants and refugees have died trying to reach the European Union this year alone.

Unprecedented numbers of refugees are braving the crossing as they flee war, persecution and poverty in the Middle East as well as Africa and Asia.

Friday 28 August 2015


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