Up To 700 Migrants Feared Dead In Shipwrecks Off Coast Of Libya

A boat carrying refugees and migrants drifts on the Mediterranean Sea shortly before rescue by the Italian Navy in 2014. Up to 700 migrants are feared dead in shipwrecks the past few days off the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean. File photo by Italian Navy/Massimo Sestini

TRIPOLI, Libya, May 29 (UPI) — Up to 700 migrants are feared to have drowned in shipwrecks off Libya’s coast in the past few days, the United Nations Refugee Agency says.

A vessel with 500 people sank in Mediterranean Sea on Thursday, according to the UNHCR. A ship that sunk Wednesday killed 100 people and another 45 bodies were recovered in a wreck Friday from which 135 people were rescued.

“We’ll never know the exact number, we’ll never know their identity, but survivors tell that over 500 human beings died,” Carlotta Sami, UNHRC spokeswoman, said on Twitter about the sinking Thursday.

Survivors rescued at sea and brought to ports in Sicily two boats were involved. One carrying around 500 migrants was towing the second with 500 people and without an engine

“We tried everything to stop the water, to bail it out of the boat,” a Nigerian girl told cultural mediators, according to La Stampa daily. “We used our hands, plastic glasses. For two hours we fought against the water but it was useless. It began to flood the boat, and those below deck had no chance. Women, men, children, many children, were trapped, and drowned.”

Italian authorities said a flotilla of EU ships rescue of more than 600 migrants off Libya on Saturday, bringing the weekly total to at least 13,000.

Carlotta Sami told the BBC: “[One of the most worrying things] is that all these ships have left together in just the last few days … it has put rescuers under severe pressure.”

The number of ships crossing from Libya to Italy have increased because of good weather and calm seas. Several thousand migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa and the Horn of Africa, have gathered on Libya’s coast.

“The number of women arriving pregnant or with newborns appears to be on the rise, with many saying they have been raped in Libya,” said Paola Mazzoni, from the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, to The Telegraph.


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