A boat carrying African migrants headed to Europe capsized off the Mediterranean coast near the Egyptian city of Alexandria on Wednesday, killing at least 29 people, Egyptian authorities said, agencies report.
Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said that the total number of dead was still unknown. Local official Alaa Osman from Beheira province said the migrants were from several African countries. He said 155 people have been rescued so far but that bodies are still being pulled from the water.
Egypt’s official news agency MENA said the boat was carrying 600 people. Thousands of illegal migrants have made the dangerous sea voyage across the Mediterranean in recent years fleeing war and poverty, mostly via lawless Libya. Thousands have drowned.
The number of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Egypt to Europe has increased significantly in the past year, EU border agency Frontex said earlier this month. More than 12,000 migrants arrived in Italy from Egypt between January and September, compared to 7,000 in the same period last year, it said.
Experts say smugglers in Egypt mostly use old fishing vessels, stuffed way beyond capacity both below and above deck.