Scores feared dead as migrants' boat sinks off Libya

Scores feared dead as migrants' boat sinks off Libya, Sep 14, 2014

Scores of African migrants trying to reach Europe were feared dead last night after their boat sank off the Libyan coast.

Only 26 of the 250 had been rescued, a Libyan navy spokesman said. Ayub Qassem told Reuters that the boat had sunk near Tajoura, east of the capital, Tripoli. He said: "There are so many dead bodies floating in the sea."

Libya is a major departure point for migrants leaving Africa, often for Italy, but the use of rickety wooden boats has resulted in hundreds of deaths.

Human traffickers are exploiting the political chaos and lack of security that has blighted Libya since Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown as leader in an uprising in 2011.

The latest incident comes just weeks after another wooden boat heading for Italy sank half a mile off the Libyan coast, killing 100 people.

More than 100,000 have survived the journey so far this year, according to the Italian government.

Qassem said that the Libyan coastguard was underequipped to deal with the scale of the problem and had few resources to search for survivors.

The agency mainly exists on paper and relies on fishing boats and tugs it borrows from the oil ministry.

Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, has called on the EU to take responsibility for rescuing migrants attempting the sea crossing, and on the UN to help curb the flow of refugees from Libya.

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