Death tool of boat capsize off Egypt increases to 42, 4 detained
AP PhotoThe death toll of the capsizing of a boat, which was carrying around 450 migrants, in the Mediterranean off Egypt’s north coast on Sept. 21 has increased to 42, while D-dozens of migrants were feared dead. Four suspects in connection with the accident were also arrested.
More than 150 people have been rescued but 42 migrants were confirmed to have died so far, after the vessel overturned off the port city of Rosetta, police and health officials said.
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 told AFP. “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.”
Five survivors, handcuffed to beds in a Rosetta hospital room, told AFP up to 450 people were on board.
“The boat sunk. My three children died,” said Badr Abdel Hamid, 28, before breaking into tears.
“We were 450 people on board. We left at 2:00 am. An hour and half later, it capsized. Whoever knew how to swim, swam. We even abandoned the women and children,” said Ahmed Mohamed, 27.
The boat sank some 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the coast and the victims included one child, 10 women and 31 young men, a municipal official in the Mediterranean city told AFP.
They were Egyptians, Eritreans, Sudanese and Syrians, said the official, Ali Abdel Sattar.
“I just wanted to reach Europe and live a decent life,” said Ahmed Gamal, 17.
Egyptian authorities arrested Sept. 22 four people in connection with the death of the 42 migrants, the Associated Press reported.
Officials say the four, whom they did not identify nor specify their link to the incident, have been remanded into police custody for four days pending further investigation.
Egyptian Prime Minister Sharif Ismail had ordered police to arrest the smugglers responsible, a cabinet statement said.
The tragedy comes months after the EU’s border agency Frontex warned that growing numbers of migrants bound for Europe were turning to Egypt as a departure point for the perilous sea journey.
Smugglers often overload the boats, some of them scarcely seaworthy, with passengers who have paid for the journey.
The military said in a statement that 163 passengers had been rescued so far, adding that they had stopped another boat elsewhere on the Mediterranean coast carrying 294 migrants.
More than 10,000 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean for Europe since 2014, according to the United Nations.