The Sunday Mail (Queensland)



TRIPOLI: RIPOLI: Libyan authoritie­s have been collecting the bodies of migrants who drowned off the coastal city of Zuwara, with some 200 feared dead.

The event is the latest disaster involving desperate people trying to reach Europe.

A photograph­er at the scene saw workers removing bodies from the water, and pulling a flooded boat into the harbour that contained victims floating face down.

At least one dead man was wearing a life vest. They were put into body bags and lined up on the waterfront.

Hussein Asheini, head of Libya’s Red Crescent in Zuwara, said at least 105 were killed, some while trapped inside the boat after it capsized.

Fishermen and the coast guard found the waterlogge­d vessel at sea and towed it back to Zuwara, where they had to break the ship’s deck to reach peopleeopl­e who had been trapped inside the hull.

“The boat sank out sea, and a coast guard team is still diving in and checking inside to see if there’s anyone else,” Mr Asheini said. There were conflictin­g casualty figures and the Red Crescent was still counting the bodies and the survivors, he added.

“So far 111 bodies have been retrieved from the sea while dozens of people are still missing,” spokesman Mohammad d al-Misratil Misrati said said, adding 198 had been rescued.

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

The United Nations refugee agency said that up to 200 people were missing and feared dead after the Libyan coast guard carried out res- cue operations on Thursday for two boats carrying an estimated 500 migrants.

Othman Belbeisi, of the Internatio­nal Organisati­on for Migration for Libya, said: “We are still waiting for more details, but we have learned there were 400 people on one of two boats.”

He said 100 were rescued, including nine women and two girls.

In a separate rescue operation by the Libyan coast guard on Wednesday, UNHCR said 51 people were found dead of suffocatio­n in the hold of a boat, with survivors recounting how smugglers beat them with sticks to keep them under the deck.

It said one survivor described how smugglers forced passengers into the packed hold and were demanding money to allow them to come up to breathe fresh air.

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