62 drowned off Libyan coast in worst Mediterranean tragedy

Bassant Mohammed
4 Min Read

Libya’s Red Crescent said on Friday they recovered 62 bodies of migrants drowned after their boat sank on Thursday off the coast of Tripoli, while up to 145 migrants were rescued.

The tragic incident took place a day after one of the deadliest shipwrecks this year that caused the death of more than 100 migrants.

Safa Msehli, spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in Libya said, “250 migrants were on the boat before it capsized off the coast of Khoms city after engine failure.”

“Among those feared drowned are women and children,” Msehli said adding that “survivors remained hours later at the disembarkation point.” 

“This shipwreck is the worst tragedy recorded off Libyan coast this year,” she added.

Filippo Grandi, head of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), described the shipwreck as “the worst Mediterranean tragedy of this year.”

Conflicting numbers

The number of recovered bodies and saved individuals saw contradiction among officials as well as rescue agencies.

“Nearly 150 migrants feared dead while some 140 others who were returned to shore are facing arbitrary detention,” Msehli said.

However, General Ayoub Kacem, a spokesperson for the Libyan navy, told Associated Press that “about 134 migrants were rescued and returned to Libya, while 115 others are still missing,” asserting that only two boats were capsized.

On the other hand, Julien Raickman the mission chief at the charity Doctors Without Borders told AFP that 250 migrants were still missing.

Raickman added as the migrants had been apparently headed out to sea on three boats lashed together, pointing out that survivors had reported a total of almost 400 people were on board.

Rescue missions

The UN said local fishermen began rescue efforts, adding that they were later assisted by the Libyan Coast Guard.

However, eyewitness told AFP that the capsized boat started to be fill with water about 90 minutes after setting out to sea on Wednesday night. Then its engine broke down, the said adding that “over the following six hours, men, women and children began to drown.”

The eyewitness added that “shortly after dawn, fishermen came out with their small boats and started taking us to shore, five at a time. This went on until 9am.”

The aftermath

Anne-Cecilia Kjaer, a nurse activity manager at Doctors Without Borders, mentioned that one man from Sudan, who was literally pulled out of the water, told MSF team that he had seen his wife and kids drown.

“He seemed aghast, just sitting there in shock,” Kjaera added.

On the fate of the rescued migrants, UNHCR spokesperson Charlie Yaxley said “a group of 84 rescued migrants were taken to Tajoura detention centre, where more than 50 people died as they trapped inside during an air strike just weeks ago.”

He asserted that they must be released, “so no one is brought back to detention centres.”

“We cannot ignore that boat journeys are becoming more and more deadly. This year one person has died on the route from Libya to Europe for every six people that have reached European shores,”

Yaxley added.

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