Cairo: The bodies of 115 people had been pulled from the waters off the Egyptian coast by on Friday, three days after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized in the Mediterranean while attempting to head to Europe.
Mohammed Sultan, the governor of Egypt’s coastal Beheira province, provided the latest death toll and told The Associated Press that dozens more are feared dead.
An AP reporter near the Nile Delta city of Rosetta saw between 20 to 30 bodies brought in by fishing boats early Friday morning and delivered to a group of waiting ambulances lined up at the coast guard pier.
The migrants’ boat capsized on Wednesday, nearly 12 kilometers from the Nile Delta port city of Rosetta. Many of the dead are women and children who were unable to swim away when the boat sank.
The head of the local council in the area, Ali Abdel- Sattar, said that the currents have carried the bodies of the victims many kilometers away from the site of the sinking.
“Today, four bodies, including two Egyptian children, were found 20 kilometers to the east,” he told the AP.
He added that many of the migrants are believed to have been “stored in the bottom of the boat, in the fridge.”
“Those are the ones who drowned first, most probably stuck, and their bodies might not be retrieved anytime soon,” he said, adding, “those we found are the ones liberated from the boat. I believe many are stuck and now laying in the bottom of the sea.” He said the boat may now have sunk to 16 meters (yards) below sea level.
The UNHCR estimated that the boat was packed with some 450 people, while the state news agency MENA said earlier that the number might be as high as 600.
“UNHCR is deeply saddened by the loss of life after yet another boat capsized in the Mediterranean,” the U.N. refugee agency said in a statement. Of the 150 people rescued, UNHCR said that the majority are Egyptians, while the others are Sudanese and other nationalities, including Somalians and Eritreans.
Today, four people described as members of the vessel’s crew were arrested over charges of human trafficking and manslaughter.
Egypt has been a traditional route for migrants travelling to Europe by sea. However, UNHCR said that since 2014 there has been a steady increase in the number of people intercepted while trying to leave.
Over 4,600 people of different nationalities were arrested this year, UNCHR said, a 28-percent increase compared to last year.
The EU border agency, Frontex, recently said more than 12,000 migrants arrived in Italy from Egypt between January and September this year, compared to 7,000 in the same period last year.