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Boat capsizes off the coast of Tunisia - at least 150 dead
The UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva has said that at least 150 people are feared dead, including Pakistani and Bangladeshi citizens, when they drowned after the boat they were traveling in capsized off the coast of Tunisia.
APART FROM the dead, many others are still missing, and the body count may rise. The associate spokesperson of the UN refugee agency, Vannina Maestracci, said this appeared to be "one of the worst and deadliest incidents in the Mediterranean so far this year," reported Xinhua. The capsized boat was carrying migrants – mostly from Africa.
"The overcrowded boat was carrying some 850 people, most from West Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It left the Libyan capital and was headed for the Italian island of Lampedusa," said Maestracci.
Tunisian Navy and coast guard are carrying out a massive search and rescue operation where the boat capsized. The location is near the Kerkennah islands, 300 kilometres north-west of Tripoli.
Reports given by survivors suggest that the vessel in which they were travelling was overcrowded and was being managed by people with very little experience of handling maritime challenges and emergencies.
The loaded boat began its journey on May 30 from Libya, Tripoli, and was headed for Lampedusa in Italy. By the third day, food and water on the boat ran out. The over laden boat was carrying people fleeing from Libya, which is experiencing intense fighting ever since a pro-democracy movement opposed to Muammar al-Qadhafi’s regime went public with their protests in February 2011.
There have been reports of boats with scores of migrants moving out of Libya due to the dangerous conflict. Many have been moving to Italy or Malta in the last few months – sometimes meeting the same fate they were trying to avoid. Only last month hundreds of people died as a shipping vessel, carrying 600 people, broke up shortly after leaving Tripoli.
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