By MAGGIE HYDE AND MAGGIE MICHAEL
The Associated Press, ASSOCIATED PRESS
ROSETTA, Egypt — Sep 23, 2016, 9:12 AM ET
Egyptian coast guard and rescue workers bring ashore bodies recovered from a Europe-bound boat that capsized off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, in Rosetta, Egypt, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. According to the Egyptian health ministry, at least 50 bodies have been recovered so far from the early Wednesday disaster and up to a 100 more migrants remain unaccounted for in what could potentially rank among the deadliest incidents in the migrant route across the Mediterranean. Thousands of illegal migrants have made the dangerous sea voyage in recent years, fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere. (AP Photo/Eman Helal)
Egypt’s state news agency says the total number of bodies pulled from the Mediterranean waters off the Egyptian coast has climbed to 148, three days after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized.
MENA quotes Wahdan el-Sayyed, the spokesman of the Nile Delta province of Beheira, as saying Friday that the search operation is still ongoing for more bodies of victims.
The migrants’ boat capsized on Wednesday, nearly 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the Nile Delta port city of Rosetta. Many of the dead are women and children who were unable to swim away when the boat sank.
A rescue worker is seen next to the body of a victim after a boat carrying migrants capsized off Egypt’s coast, in Al-Beheira, Egypt, September 22, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
CAIRO: The death toll from a migrant boat disaster off Egypt’s coast climbed above 100 on Friday (Sep 23) as rescuers recovered more bodies from the Mediterranean.
Survivors have said up to 450 migrants were on board the overcrowded fishing vessel that was heading to Italy from Egypt when it keeled over off the port city of Rosetta on Wednesday.
Health ministry official Adel Khalifa said 53 more bodies had been retrieved on Friday, raising the death toll to at least 108.
The military said it had rescued 163 survivors. Recovery attempts were continuing.
Rescuers had said search operations would focus on the boat’s hold where witnesses said around 100 people had been when the vessel flipped over.
Authorities have arrested four suspected people traffickers over the tragedy, the latest in what the UN refugee agency expects to be the deadliest year on record for the Mediterranean.
The accident comes months after the EU border agency Frontex warned that growing numbers of Europe-bound migrants were using Egypt as a departure point for the dangerous voyage.
Traffickers often use barely seaworthy vessels and overload them to extract the maximum money in fares from desperate migrants.
The International Organization for Migration said most of those rescued were Egyptians but also included Sudanese, Eritreans, a Syrian and an Ethiopian.
After Balkan countries closed the popular overland route in March and the EU agreed a deal with Turkey to halt departures, asylum-seekers turned to other ways to reach Europe.
Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri said in June that the crossing from Egypt to Italy, which often takes more than 10 days, was becoming increasingly popular.
The UN refugee agency said on Friday that more than 4,600 non-Egyptians, many of them Sudanese and Ethiopians, had been arrested this year trying to depart from Egypt’s northern coast.
More than 10,000 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014, according to the United Nations.
At least 300,000 migrants have crossed the sea so far this year from various points of departure, the UN had said this week.
The number is down from 520,000 in the first nine months of 2015.
But despite the lower numbers attempting the crossing, fatality rates had risen, with 2016 on track to be “the deadliest year on record in the Mediterranean Sea,” said the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).
The European Union launched “Operation Sophia” last year to destroy smuggler boats that could be used to ferry migrants across the Mediterranean.
Tags: Beheira, Egypt, Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, Ethiopia, Ethiopians, European Union, International Organization for Migration, Italy, Mediterranean, migrants, Nile Delta, refugees, Rosetta, Sudan, UNHCR