Tunisia finds 12 bodies after migrant boat sinks

migrants_deadA dozen bodies were retrieved Saturday by the Tunisian coast guard, the Red Crescent said, days after a boat sank with scores of migrants on board according to a survivor.

“Twelve bodies were recovered Saturday morning off the coast of southern Tunisia, two of which were women,” said Mongi Slim, a Red Crescent official.

Those found were estimated to have been between 20 and 30 years old, he told AFP.

The body of another woman who drowned was found on the beach of Zarzis in southern Tunisia, national guard spokesman Houcem Eddine Jebabli said Friday.

The search for other victims of the shipwreck was continuing off the coast of Zarzis, he said.

A Malian survivor told the UN’s migration agency that 86 people had been on board the inflatable dinghy that sank on Monday.

“People were terrified as water started pouring in, some of them fell into the water. They stayed down there,” survivor Soleiman Coulibaly told AFP.

The Red Crescent and the navy said three Malians and an Ivorian were rescued on Wednesday by the coast guard, who had been alerted by local fishermen.

The Ivorian, however, died in hospital and one of the Malians has also been hospitalised in intensive care.

“About 80 migrants are feared dead. More updates are needed in order to confirm what happened and the actual number of missing,” Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesman for the UN’s International Organization for Migration, tweeted on Thursday.

The boat tipped over only hours after setting out to sea from the Libyan town of Zuwara, west of Tripoli, with the intention of reaching Italy.

Libya has in recent years been a major departure point for migrants seeking to reach Europe across the Mediterranean.

Rights groups say migrants face horrifying abuses in Libya, with many held in squalid detention facilities.

An air strike Tuesday on a migrant centre in the capital Tripoli killed at least 53 people, according to the World Health Organization.

Those who attempt the dangerous sea crossing are also facing an increasingly hostile response from the other side of the Mediterranean.

Italy is attempting to close its ports to migrant rescue ships, while last month Tunisian authorities for more than two weeks refused to let 75 people saved at sea come ashore.

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