Somalia’s government says about 200 or more Somalis may have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to cross illegally to Europe, many of them teenagers, when the boat they were on capsized after leaving the Egyptian shore.
“We have no fixed number but it is between 200 and 300 Somalis,” Somali Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir told Reuters.
He did not give a precise timing for the incident.
Another Somali government statement, which offered condolences, also put the number at nearly 200.
“There is no clear number since they are not travelling legally,” the minister said, adding that he understood the boat might have been carrying about 500 people, of which 200 to 300 were Somalis “and most of them had died.”
Egyptian, Italian and Greek officials were unable to confirm the numbers.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella had said earlier on Monday that several hundred people appeared to have died in the tragedy but added his government were unable to confirm the deaths.
In a tweet UNHCR Central Europe said claims of hundreds of deaths appear inaccurate with the fact that the boat capsized at night in open sea contributing to the lack of availability of clear information.
Information on boat disaster killing 400+ #refugees at Mediterranian appears inaccurate 苏州美甲培训学校,长沙SPA,/OGg3g7TUjz pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/Cfs0PLzlkh
— UNHCR Central Europe (@RefugeesCE) 18 April 2016
A UN refugee agency official told Swiss broadcaster SRF he knew of 40 survivors from what appeared to be the same incident.
“We know there are 40 survivors and that as many as 460 people may have been on the boat who sailed from Egypt,” the UNHCR’s Beat Schuler told the broadcaster in what it said was a report from Malta.
More than 1.2 million African, Arab and Asian migrants have streamed into the European Union since the start of last year, many of them setting off from North Africa in rickety boats that are packed full of people and which struggle in choppy seas.
One year ago, an estimated 800 migrants drowned off the Libyan coast when the fishing boat they were travelling in collided with a mercantile vessel that was attempting to rescue them – the most deadly Mediterranean shipwreck in decades.
– with Reuters