UN: 150 people drown after boat wreck off Tunisia

Last Updated: Saturday, June 4, 2011 - 21:17

Geneva: Many women and children are among
150 people that drowned after a ship carrying some 850
migrants, including Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, fleeing the
conflict in Libya capsized off Tunisia`s coast, the United
Nations refugee agency said on Saturday.

The tragedy appears to be one of the worst and the
deadliest incidents in the Mediterranean so far this year,
said Adrian Edwards, the spokesman for the UNHCR.

The Geneva-based agency said at least 578 of the
estimated 850 people on board, mostly from West Africa,
Pakistan and Bangladesh, survived the Wednesday sinking.

The boat, manned by people with little or no maritime
experience, set sail on Saturday afternoon from the Libyan
capital Tripoli and was headed for Lampedusa in Italy, Edwards
said.

"It ran into difficulties soon after departure and
experienced problems with its steering and power," he said.
"Effectively lost at sea, by the third day of the journey the
passengers ran out of food and water."

The boat ultimately ran aground on Wednesday on a
sandbank near the Kerkennah islands, some 300 kilometers
northwest of Tripoli. It capsized as desperate passengers
rushed to one side, seeking rescue by the Tunisian coast guard
and fishing boats that had approached the vessel.

Many fell into the water and women and children are
among the missing, survivors told the refugee agency.

UNHCR, however, revised its earlier statement which said that
150 bodies had been recovered from the sea.

Col. Jalloul Jaballah, who heads the emergency
response unit in the region near the shipwreck, says that only
one body has been pulled out of the water and another person
died while being transferred, as bad weather has prevented any
recovery attempt.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, June 4, 2011 - 21:17

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