TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A boat carrying migrants from Libya to Europe capsized off Tunisia’s coast, prompting an ongoing rescue operation Wednesday after one body was recovered and dozens of people were reported missing.
The International Organisation for Migration said that 75 people were unaccounted for and 30 others were rescued after the boat sank off Sfax in southern Tunisia.
Mourad Turki, a Sfax courts spokesman, told The Associated Press that those who were rescued were between 18 and 40 years old and of various nationalities, including people from Bangladesh, Egypt, Morocco and Cameroon. Turki added that the initial numbers of those missing were provisional and could increase.
Esma Rihane, a spokesperson for the IOM, said that the Tunisian navy was continuing to comb the area and search for the missing.
The boat reportedly departed from Zuwara in north Libya on Sunday night. According to the Sfax National Guard, the boat ran aground 10 kilometres (six miles) from the island of Kerkennah, off Tunisia’s coast.
Zuwara serves as a departure point for migrants from Libya attempting to reach the Italian coast by sea. Last July, a boat carrying 127 migrants from Zuwara sank off Zarzis, a port in southern Tunisia, leaving 43 people missing.
The central Mediterranean, which connects Libya and the Maghreb countries to Italy or Malta, is the most dangerous migration route in the world, according to the IOM. The UN agency estimates that more than 1,500 people died or went missing in the area in 2021 and more than 500 so far in 2022.