Athens: The bodies of more than 100 migrants have washed up on a Libyan beach as a new migrant boat tragedy unfolded in the Mediterranean south of Greece on Friday. Desperate rescue efforts were under way off the Greek island of Crete where at least 340 people were saved after a vessel believed to have left Africa with hundreds of migrants on board capsized.
The Libyan navy said meanwhile it had found the bodies of at least 104 migrants on the shore in the western Libyan town of Zwara, warning that the toll could rise. “The number of bodies retrieved Thursday evening was 104 but the toll is expected to rise since an average boat carries 115-125 passengers,” said Libyan navy spokesman Colonel Ayoub Qassem. The names and nationalities of the drowned migrants, whose bodies were found on Thursday, were not yet known.
In Greece, efforts were under way to find hundreds believed missing after a migrant boat capsized off the island of Crete. Greece’s coastguard has already recovered four bodies. Coastguard spokesman Nikos Lagadianos said at least 340 people had been rescued, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the vessel “is believed to have left Africa with at least 700 migrants on board”.
Among the survivors, over 240 are on route to Italy, 75 to Egypt, 16 to Turkey and seven to Malta, the coastguard said. The Friday sinking marked the second migrant vessel found in that area of the southern Aegean Sea since last week, indicating that people smugglers may be forging a new route to avoid NATO ships.