Boat with 170 on board sinks off Libyan coast

Tripoli - A wooden boat with around 170 African migrants on board trying to reach Europe has sunk in rough seas off the Libyan coast, a spokesperson for the Libyan navy said on Saturday.

Migrants have been streaming out of North Africa in rickety boats in rising numbers for years. So far in 2014, the total number reaching Italian shores has passed 100 000, the Italian government said this week.

"The coast guards have rescued 17 of the illegal migrants," navy spokesperson Ayoub Qassem said.

A search for the rest of the passengers was underway, he added.

The boat sank late on Friday near Qarabouli, east of Tripoli, a common launchpad used by human traffickers smuggling people to Europe, Qassem said.

Local coast guard official Mohammad Abdellatif told Reuters Television they had been alerted to the sinking by local fishermen at dawn on Saturday morning.

Abdellatif said the coast guard in Qarabouli had no equipment and so is forced to borrow fishing vessels and tug boats to carry out their rescue missions.

He said they had informed the hospital, ministry of health and the criminal investigations department of the accident and that all three had defused to collect the bodies.

All of the people rescued had been released as there was nowhere to detain them, he said.

The Italian navy told Reuters they were not involved in the incident and had no further details.

Italy is carrying out the bulk of patrols in the Mediterranean Sea aimed at preventing major tragedies involving migrants.

More than 70 000 people have been rescued through the "Mare Nostrum" (Our Sea) mission of patrols which Italy began last October.

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John Greystoke 2014/08/23 04:57:14 PM
I am without words! Gasping for air, one could say. Risking death to get out?
Bruwer 2014/08/23 05:06:33 PM
Why Africa is such a wonderful place , why do they want to live with the imperialists
Motho Fela 2014/08/23 06:16:46 PM
African Leaders will surely burn in Hell for not taking care of their Nation instead stealing and enriching themselves,but most of all the Human Traffickers. This people are the ones encouraging this people to take this risky journey to Europe, saying Europe is Heaven, when there is no such thing. African people must open their eyes and build their countries, stand up for the truth and get rid of corrupt Leaders, That is why l dont like ANC anymore because if we are not careful one day we will make terrible journeys and become refugees too. So please wake up!!!
Bento Maepa 2014/08/23 08:09:27 PM
Everything is true about everyone when they are desperate. That Africa is a beautiful place to live in is just a myth perpetuated by African demagogues. Not everything is nice here.