28 Aug 2015

Hundreds feared dead in migrant boat tragedy

The unrelenting tragedy of people trying to reach a better life is laid bare once again, as hundreds of people are feared to have died when two boats capsized off the coast of Libya.

Above: Ayman Talaal, a Syrian refugee who survived the boat capsizing.

In the latest migrant tragedy, two boats carrying a total of 450 people sank having departed from the town of Zuwara.

The first boat, which had around 51 people on board, had signalled for help on Thursday and the second boat with 400 on board capsized later.

Libya’s coastguard said it had rescued around 201 people from the second boat – of which 147 were taken to a detention centre – but there were fears that as many had become trapped in the boat’s hold.

Authorities recovered 82 bodies that washed up on the Libyan shore. Local officials and residents were putting bodies into red bags on a beach littered with shoes, trousers and other personal items from drowned migrants.

Children rescued from one of the capsized boats

Above: children rescued from one of the capsized boats

Migrants and refugees on board were from sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan, Syria, Morocco and Bangladesh, authorities said.

A Swedish navy ship found the bodies of 51 people below deck on the first boat.

‘Smell of death’

The deaths follow another shocking incident, in which dead refugees were found inside a parked lorry in Austria. On Friday Austrian authorities raised the death toll from the incident – in which the refugees are understoof to have suffocated in the back fo a truck – from 50 to 70.

The “smell of death” hung over the scene (pictured, above), Channel 4 News International Editor reported from the motorway where the bodies were found. It was reported that when police arrived the fluids from the decomposing bodies were seeping out of the back door.

Austria and Hungary have launched investigations into the incident. The lorry had Hungarian number plates. Austria’s Krone newspaper reported on Friday that three people had been arrested in Hungary in connection with the incident.

Above: the Italian coastguard rescue 270 people from two dinghies in the Mediterranean

More than 2,300 people have died this year in attempts to reach Europe by boat, compared with 3,279 during the whole of last year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Italian authorities, who coordinate rescue efforts off the Libyan coast, said that 1,430 people had been rescued in numerous operations near Libya throughout the day on Thursday.

Footage from the coastguard showed two dinghies carrying a total of 270 people were brought safely to the Italian island of Lampedusa on Friday morning.