Tripoli: Up to 200 bodies have been discovered off the coast of one of Libya’s main people-smuggling hubs, in the latest tragedy of the European migration crisis.
The bodies were found by a Libyan coastguard vessel around a kilometre from Zuwara, a port in western Libya that is a major departure point for migrants hoping to reach Italy. A security official in the western town of Zuwara, from where the overcrowded boat had set off, said there had been around 400 people on board. Many appeared to have been trapped in the hold when it capsized.
According to a representative of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) who was helping to coordinate the humanitarian response, around 40 bodies were found inside a half-sunk fishing boat as it was brought towards the shore by the high tide. Up to 160 others were discovered floating nearby, while around 201 survivors were rescued. Some of the bodies were taken to shore, but many were left to float in the water overnight, as coastguards did not have enough light to work by.
Those on board had been from sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan, Syria, Morocco and Bangladesh, the security official said. If confirmed, the incident would bring the total number of deaths in the Mediterranean this year to over 2,500 – a figure higher even than last year’s record-breaking toll.