Bod­ies of over 100 mi­grants wash up on Libya beach

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

ATHENS—The bod­ies of more than 100 mi­grants have washed up on a Libyan beach as a new mi­grant boat tragedy un­folded in the Mediter­ranean south of Greece on Fri­day.

Des­per­ate res­cue ef­forts were un­der way off the Greek is­land of Crete where at least 340 peo­ple were saved af­ter a ves­sel be­lieved to have left Africa with hun­dreds of mi­grants on board cap­sized.

The Libyan navy said mean­while it had found the bod­ies of at least 104 mi­grants on the shore in the western Libyan town of Zwara, warn­ing that the toll could rise.

“The num­ber of bod­ies re­trieved Thurs­day evening was 104 but the toll is ex­pected to rise since an av­er­age boat car­ries 115-125 pas­sen­gers,” said Libyan navy spokesman Colonel Ay­oub Qassem.

The names and na­tion­al­i­ties of the drowned mi­grants, whose bod­ies were found on Thurs­day, were not yet known.

In Greece, ef­forts were un­der way to find hun­dreds be­lieved miss­ing af­ter a mi­grant boat cap­sized off the is­land of Crete.

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Coast­guard spokesman Nikos La­ga­di­anos said at least 340 peo­ple had been res­cued, and the In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion said the ves­sel “is be­lieved to have left Africa with at least 700 mi­grants on board”.

Among the sur­vivors, over 240 are on route to Italy, 75 to Egypt, 16 to Turkey and seven to Malta, the coast­guard said.

The Fri­day sink­ing marked the sec­ond mi­grant ves­sel found in that area of the south­ern Aegean Sea since last week, in­di­cat­ing that peo­ple smug­glers may be forg­ing a new route to avoid Nato ships.

A Greek coast­guard spokes­woman told AFP a ma­jor res­cue op­er­a­tion was un­der­way, in­clud­ing four ships that were pass­ing through the area, in clear but windy con­di­tions about 75 nau­ti­cal miles south of Crete.

“The num­ber of peo­ple in dis­tress could be counted in the hun­dreds,” she said. It was not im­me­di­ately clear where ex­actly the boat had left from or where it was headed, or the na­tion­al­i­ties of those on board.

The coast­guard spokes­woman said a pass­ing ship spot­ted the sink­ing ves­sel off Crete. The coast­guard rushed two pa­trol boats, a plane and a he­li­copter to the scene.

About half of the 25-me­tre-long boat was com­pletely un­der­wa­ter, the spokes­woman said.

The deaths are the first in Greek wa­ters since April, as a con­tro­ver­sial March deal be­tween the EU and Turkey de­signed to halt the flow of mi­grants us­ing the pop­u­lar Aegean route has led to a sharp drop in ar­rivals.—AFP

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