Tripoli, Sep 11 : More than 100 migrants drowned when the precarious and overloaded vessel they were using in a bid to cross the Mediterranean from Libya sank last week before help reached them, French NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in a report on Tuesday.
Eyewitnesses told MSF that two rubber boats, each carrying more than 160 people, left the Libyan coast en route to Europe on September 1. One boat suffered an engine failure but the second, which had 165 adults and 20 children on board, continued its journey before it began to deflate near the coast of Malta, Efe news reported.
“At that time, the mobile satellite phone showed that we were not far from Maltese coast. We called the Italian Coast Guard and sent our coordinates, asking for assistance as people started to fall in the water. We were told they would send someone. But the boat started sinking,” a survivor told MSF.
“We couldn’t swim and only a few people had life jackets. Those among us who could hold on the boat’s floating hood stayed alive,” he said.
According to an eyewitness, the boat had already capsized by the time rescuers made it to the scene and only 55 people survived. Survivors were brought to Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard.
Among the nationalities on board the two migrant vessels were Sudanese, Malians, Nigerians, Cameroonians, Ghanaians, Libyans, Algerians and Egyptians.
Over 1,500 migrants have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean so far this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Many more have been rescued, although Italy, a primary destination for migrants travelling from Libya, recently started to refuse entry to migrant ships.