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200 feared dead after boat sinks
28 Aug 2015 20:08
Up to 200 people may have died after a boat packed with mainly Africans bound for Italy sank off the Libyan coast.
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Aid workers have said the death toll currently stands at 76.
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A security official in the western town of Zuwara, from where the overcrowded boat had set off, said there had been around 400 people on board.
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Many appeared to have been trapped in the hold when it capsized yesterday.
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The Libyan coast guard has so far rescued around 201, of which 147 were brought to a detention facility for illegal migrants in Sabratha, west of Tripoli, the official said, asking not to be named.
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Another local official and a journalist based in Zuwara confirmed the sinking but also had no information on casualties.
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The migrants on board had been from sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan, Syria, Morocco and Bangladesh, the security official said.
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The Italian coast guard, which has been coordinating rescue operations with the European Union off the Libyan coast, could not confirm a sinking.
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The Rome-based authority later said some 1,430 people had been rescued in numerous operations near Libya throughout yesterday, and a merchant ship sent to the aid of a wooden boat carrying 125 people recovered two bodies.
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Libya's coast guard has very limited capabilities, relying on small inflatables, tug boats and fishing vessels.
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Zuwara, Libya's most western town located near the Tunisian border, is a major launch pad for smugglers shipping migrants to Italy.
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Libya has turned into a transit route for migrants fleeing conflict and poverty to make it to Europe. Cross-border smuggler networks exploit the country's lawlessness and chaos to bring Syrians into Libya via Egypt or nationals of sub-Saharan countries via Niger, Sudan and Chad.
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