More feared dead in Egypt migrant boat tragedy
By Haitham El-Tabei, AFP
September 23, 2016, 12:05 am TWN
ROSETTA, Egypt -- Dozens of migrants were feared dead Thursday after their overloaded fishing boat capsized off Egypt's Mediterranean coast, as authorities arrested four suspected traffickers following the tragedy that killed at least 42 people.
The latest in a string of disasters to hit those undertaking the perilous sea crossing to Europe saw hundreds of mainly African migrants thrown into the sea on Wednesday about 12 kilometers (eight miles) from the Egyptian city of Rosetta.
More than 150 people have been rescued but 42 migrants were confirmed to have died so far.
Rescuers said search operations would focus on the boat's cold storage room where witnesses said around 100 people sought refuge as the vessel flipped over.
"The death toll is going to rise," a medical source told AFP. "On the boat there is a hold used to store fish. It hasn't been opened and there must be a lot of people inside."
The deadly accident comes months after the EU's border agency Frontex warned that growing numbers of migrants bound for Europe were turning to Egypt as a departure point for the dangerous sea journey.
Traffickers often overload the boats, some of them scarcely seaworthy, with passengers who have paid for the crossing.
On a beach near Rosetta on Thursday, a small crowd gathered with some reading verses from the Koran and others desperately seeking information on relatives who may have been on board.
The military said in a statement that 163 passengers had been rescued so far, adding that they had stopped another boat elsewhere on the Mediterranean coast carrying 294 migrants.
Many survivors were in police custody early Thursday.
Witnesses spoke of the harrowing moment their vessel, carrying up to 450 people, keeled over due to overcrowding, as well as the agonizing hours-long wait for help to arrive.
"There was 200 of us and the boat was already full, 200 more then arrived. The boat tilted to the side then began to sink," said Ahmed Mohamed, a 27-year-old Egyptian.
"It was like the apocalypse. Everyone tried to get out alive. I swam for 10 kilometers."