More feared dead in Egypt migrant boat tragedy

A crowd gathered as the bodies of drowned migrants were brought to shore in the Egyptian city of Rosetta on Wednesday.
A crowd gathered as the bodies of drowned migrants were brought to shore in the Egyptian city of Rosetta on Wednesday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ROSETTA (Egypt) • Rescuers brought more bodies to shore yesterday, a day after a boat crowded with migrants capsized off the coast of Egypt, drowning at least 51 people.

Survivors said up to 450 migrants were on board the fishing vessel when it sank about 12km off the coast of Rosetta, an Egyptian Mediterranean port city, on Wednesday morning.

The military said that 163 survivors had been rescued so far, with a Health Ministry official saying that 51 bodies had been retrieved by yesterday afternoon.

A military boat brought some of the bodies to shore, laying them out in body bags.

Rescuers said search operations would focus on the boat's cold storage room where, witnesses said, around 100 people sought refuge as the vessel flipped over.

"The death toll is going to rise," a medical source said. "On the boat, there is a hold used to store fish. It hasn't been opened and there must be a lot of people inside."

The incident comes months after the European Union's border agency, Frontex, warned that growing numbers of migrants bound for Europe were turning to Egypt as a departure point for the dangerous sea journey.

Traffickers often overload the boats, some of them scarcely seaworthy, with passengers.

Many survivors were in police custody yesterday. A prosecution official said they would be treated like "victims and not perpetrators", and would be released.

Judicial and security officials said four alleged smugglers had been detained, and accused of involuntary manslaughter and human trafficking.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2016, with the headline 'More feared dead in Egypt migrant boat tragedy'. Print Edition | Subscribe