A boat carrying scores of migrants has sunk in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Tunisia, killing at least 50 people, according to the United Nations migration agency.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said sixteen people survived the shipwreck on Friday, making it one of the deadliest incidents involving migrants trying to reach Europe by sea this year.
“Another tragedy in the Mediterranean,” the organisation said.
Only four bodies have been recovered from the scene so far, according to the IOM, with search operations ongoing.
Update: IOM Tunisia reports just 4 bodies have been recovered so far in the ongoing #SAR operations.
The boat is thought to have left from Zuwara, #Libya, according to the Tunisian Ministry of Defense.
— Missing Migrants Project (@MissingMigrants) May 10, 2019
According to reports by Tunisia’s state-run TAP news agency, the boat carrying as many as 70 migrants sank 40 nautical miles off the coast of Sfax, some 270km south of the capital, Tunis. Fishing boats rescued the survivors, TAP reported.
The IOM said the vessel took to the sea from neighboring Libya, where renewed warfare between rival factions has gripped the capital, Tripoli, in recent weeks.
An IOM official told The Associated Press news agency those on board included Bangladeshi and Moroccan nationals, among others.
Libya’s western coast is a main departure point for migrants from across Africa hoping to reach Europe by paying human traffickers, though numbers have dropped due to an Italian-led effort to disrupt smuggling networks and support the Libyan coastguard with funds, ships and training, in return for carrying out interceptions and rescues.
The Mediterranean is the “world’s deadliest sea crossing”, according to the United Nations refugee agency, with one person in 14 dying on the route from Libya to Europe last year.
A UN report published in January said six migrants died attempting to cross the Mediterranean every day in 2018.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies