Almost 100 migrants are missing after their boat sank off the Libyan coast, the country’s navy says.
The boat, reportedly carrying 126 people mostly from African nations, left Garabulli, east of the capital Tripoli, early on Wednesday morning.
The coast guard received a distress call later that day. Twenty nine people were rescued but the rest were unaccounted for, a navy spokesman said.
Survivors told rescuers the plastic boat had ripped and taken on water.
“Because of overcrowding one of the sides of the boat got torn and water leaked in,” navy spokesman Ayoub Gassim told Reuters news agency.
“Ninety-seven illegal migrants are still missing or they have drowned.”
- ‘Push’ factor drives migrants away from Libya to Europe
- Migrant tragedy: Anatomy of a shipwreck
- Migrant story enters new phase
In a separate incident on Wednesday, Medecins Sans Frontieres said it had found 25 bodies in a partially flooded inflatable dinghy off Libya’s coast.
Those who died were found submerged in a mixture of seawater and fuel in the bottom of the vessel, the aid agency said. More than 100 other migrants were rescued from the boat.
UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Wednesday at least 3,800 migrants had died or gone missing in the Mediterranean Sea in 2016, making it the deadliest year on record.
This was despite a significant drop in migrant crossings compared with 2015, when 3,771 deaths were reported, it said.
This was because smugglers were now using flimsy boats more often and putting more people aboard, it said.
Nearly 330,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea this year, compared with more than one million in 2015.
Some migrants are seeking economic opportunities in Europe, while others are fleeing war, instability or authoritarian governments.
A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.
Migrant crisis: Almost 100 missing in Libya sinking