Up to 150 feared dead in worst shipwreck in Mediterranean in 2019

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Numerous refugees from Libya are desperate to reach the Italian coast on a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea, 27 January 2018. They are awaiting the aid of SOS Mediterranee and the Italian coast watch. Photo: Laurin Schmid/SOS Mediterranee/dpa (Photo by Laurin Schmid/SOS Mediterranee/picture alliance via Getty Images)

 

A Libyan coastguard uses binoculars as he patrols the area at sea between Sabratha and Zawiyah on July 28, 2017. (Photo credit TAHA JAWASHI/AFP/Getty Images)

Libyan authorities are working to recover at least 115 people believed to have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Africa into Europe. The number could be as high as 150.

According to the International Organization for Migration in Libya, a boat carrying close to 300 people began having engine trouble then later capsized 120 km east of Tripoli. Most of the people on board were from Eritrea and Sudan.

The Libyan navy and fishermen nearby managed to rescue 134 people.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Charlie Yaxley, said the survivors were picked up by local fishermen and then taken back to shore by the Libyan coastguard.

“The worst Mediterranean tragedy of this year has just occurred,” Filippo Grandi, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said.

He further called upon the European countries to resume rescue missions in the Mediterranean, halted after a European Union decision, and appealed for an end to migrant detentions in Libya.

“Safe pathways out of the North African country are needed before it is too late for many more desperate people”, Grandi added.

One of the survivors of the tragedy Sabah Youssef lost his seven-year-old son. He said” I don’t want anything now except to go back to my country, Sudan, to die there.”

Another unnamed Eritrean told AP “In the afternoon, we started from Libya going to Italy, but when we went there, after one hour the ship started to sink and most of them (people) sank.”

Yet another survivor also from Eritrea added: “We rescued ourselves. No-one could help us and no one came to rescue us, and here we are in a big problem so we need your (international community) help.”

Nearly 700 deaths have been recorded in the Mediterranean so far this year, according to the IOM, almost half as many as the 1,425 registered in 2018.

 

 

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