TUNIS (Reuters) – The death toll from a ship packed with African migrants that sank off the Tunisian coast last week has risen to 58 after Tunisia recovered 38 bodies on Thursday, the Tunisian Red Crescent said.
The Tunisian Red Crescent believes that the eventual toll from the incident could be higher than 80, which would make it one of the worst migrant boat disasters to date.
Survivors told the Tunisian coast guard last week that the boat, which capsized after setting off for Europe from neighbouring Libya, had been carrying 86 people.
”Only today, the Coast Guard recovered 38 bodies off the coast of Zarzis, bringing the death toll to 58,” Mongi Slim, an official of the Tunisian Red Crescent, told Reuters.
Tunisian fishermen rescued four people who were on board the same overcrowded boat but one later died in hospital, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said last week.
Libya’s west coast is a main departure point for African migrants hoping to reach Europe, though numbers have dropped due to an Italian-led effort to disrupt smuggling networks and support the Libyan Coast Guard.
Sixty-five migrants heading for Europe from Libya drowned in May when their boat capsized off Tunisia.
Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Gareth Jones and Frances Kerry