Tunisia finds more migrant dead, about 200 missing

Four days after a boat carrying African immigrants sank in bad weather in the Mediterranean, rescue teams recovered two more bodies and said on Monday they would keep searching for nearly 200 people still missing.

india Updated: Jun 24, 2003 10:59 IST
Reuters
Reuters
PTI

Four days after a boat carrying African immigrants sank in bad weather in the Mediterranean, rescue teams recovered two more bodies and said on Monday they would keep searching for nearly 200 people still missing.

"Only God can decide on how long one can survive. Thus, we will pursue the search as long as possible," said Tunisian Coast Guard Colonel Noureddine al Chibani.

About 250 people from several African states were thought to have been onboard the rickety boat which sank in bad weather early on Friday some 100 km (60 miles) southeast of the Tunisian coastal town of Sfax.

"We recovered two bodies later on Sunday bringing the total number of corpses found since Friday to 14," Chibani told Reuters.

Tunisian officials said coast guards rescued 41 survivors soon after the vessel split and sank but about 200 people were unaccounted for.

Although hopes of finding anyone alive had dwindled, Tunisian authorities said navy ships, backed by local fishermen, would continue their search.

Chibani said the force and direction of the wind on the Mediterranean Sea were factors in determining whether more bodies would be washed away towards the Tunisian shoreline or elsewhere on the coasts of neighbouring countries.

The boat was part of a surging wave of illegal immigrants attempting to steal across the porous Italian shoreline to reach a better life in Europe.

On the ship were people from Egypt, Morocco, Niger, Somalia and Liberia.

Survivors said their wrecked boat originated from Zuwarah in Libya, where Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had warned European Union leaders their countries would be swamped with illegal immigrants unless they stepped up cooperation with Africa to alleviate economic and social woes.

Tunisian officials said the capsized boat was among several spotted off Tunisia's coast sailing to Italy recently. They insist the boats were from a "neighbouring country" but did not want to name it.

Survivors, who had been brought to Sfax and were resting before their deportation, told of desperate immigrants who used their bare hands and bundles of clothes to try to stop water pouring into their crammed boat.

First Published: Jun 24, 2003 10:59 IST