Boat Sinks off Libyan Coast, 200 Feared Dead

Posted Mar 31, 2009 by Bob Ewing
Reports say over 200 people are feared to have drowned after an overcrowded boat carrying illegal migrants sank in stormy waters off the Libyan coast.
Four days after the accident, there are at least 20 people dead and 200 missing, feared dead. An Italian merchant vessel saved hundreds of others when a second boat got into difficulties.
The capsized boat apparently had a capacity of 50 and overturned on Friday in high winds with around 250 people on board.
On Sunday, the bodies of six migrants, including three women, were pulled from the water.
Jemini Pandya, a spokeswoman for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said the boat capsized 30 miles off the Libyan coast as it negotiated one of the most frequent routes used by illegal migrants trying to reach Italy and Europe,
More than 20 people were rescued, and about 20 bodies were recovered on Sunday.
Earlier reports had hinted up to three boats capsized, but officials later confirmed that only one vessel had sunk while a second, carrying about 350 migrants, was rescued in the same area on Sunday.
Colonel Najy Abou Harous, a Libyan police spokesman, said the capsized vessel vanished and only 21 people had been rescued.
"We found 21 other corpses. The rest are believed dead," he said.
"The boat capacity is 40 to 50 and the smugglers packed it with hundreds. These are wooden fishing boats, not for sailing," he added.
Each year, thousands of African, Asian and Middle Eastern migrants fleeing wars and poverty use Libya and other North African countries as a launching pads for the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to southern Europe. The vessels they use are, at best, rickety, overloaded boats
The International Organization for Migration's. Laurence Hart (IOM) said "This is the typical route for migrants from Libya to Italy."