International

Libya shipwreck toll touches 105

In this August 27, 2015 photo, a girl holds a sign at a demonstration by local residents against illegal immigration after hearing news that a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized off the coast, in Zuwara, Libya.  

At least 105 people have died after a ship carrying hundreds of migrants and refugees sank off the coast of Libya, a spokesman for the Libyan Red Crescent said on Friday.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said as many as 200 people on two boats were feared dead.

“Until now 105 bodies have been retrieved from the sea and 198 people have been rescued,” said Mohammad al-Misrati of the Libyan Red Crescent.

Libya’s coast guard initially said 30 people had died in the disaster that unfolded on Thursday near the western port of Zuwara.

“There are still people missing but we don’t know how many,” Misrati said, adding that the figures of dead and rescued came from the local Red Crescent branch, medical facilities in Zuwara and the Libyan coast guard.

“The boat was in a bad condition and people died with us,” said Ayman Talaal, a Syrian survivor, standing next to his daughter. “We have been forced into this route. It’s now called the grave of the Mediterranean Sea.”

In Geneva, UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told reporters that two boats carrying a total of 500 refugees and migrants had sunk.

“The Libyan coast guard carried out two rescue operations on Thursday morning ... off the port town of Zuwara,” she said.

“We are hearing media reports that there are about 100 survivors. Our office in Libya is checking with the coast guard ... We believe 200 are still missing, feared dead.”

Red Crescent teams wearing protective white clothing and masks on Friday collected bodies that had washed ashore on a Zuwara beach, placing them in orange plastic bags and carrying them to ambulances.

More than 300,000 refugees and migrants have risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year, and some 2,500 more have died while making the perilous journey, the U.N. said on Friday.

Nearly 200,000 people had landed in Greece since January, while another 110,000 had made it to Italy, Melissa Fleming, spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency, told reporters in Geneva.

Fleming said this number did not include the latest boat tragedy off Libya on Thursday.

10 arrested in Italy

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Sicily arrested 10 people on suspicion of smuggling and murder on Friday for having allegedly crammed dozens of migrants into the airless hold of a boat where 52 bodies were found this week.


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