The rescuers recovered at least 162 bodies from the waters of the migrant shipwreck off Egypt’s coast on Friday, two days after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized in the Mediterranean while attempting to head to Europe.
Mohammed Sultan, the governor of Beheira, who provided the latest updates of the incidence to the media said, “Dozens more are feared dead, though the search operation is still ongoing. Many of them are believed to be children and women who were unable to swim away when the boat sank.”
The boat was located nearly 7 miles from the Nile Delta port city of Rosetta when it sank. It had waited at sea for many hours – perhaps days – for smaller wooden boats carrying migrants to arrive from different points along the Egyptian coastline.
There is no correct estimation for the number of people boarded on the boat, some say it was 450 while some estimated the number of people boarded on the boat to be as high as 600. The military has rescued 163 survivors and the survivors said that overcrowding on the boat led the boat to capsize. The International Organization for Migration said most of those rescued were Egyptians but they also included Sudanese, Eritreans, a Syrian and an Ethiopian.
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 EU border agency, Frontex, recently said more than 12,000 migrants arrived in Italy from Egypt between January and September this year, compared to 7,000 in the same period last year. Yet UNHCR says that since 2014 there has been a steady increase in the number of people intercepted while trying to leave Egypt, with 4,600 people arrested this year, a 28-percent increase compared to the previous year.
The International Organization for Migration has said that this year over 3,500 have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, with this number “rapidly approaching” the record death toll set last year.