TRIPOLI, 24 March 2021 – About 60 migrants are presumed dead after their boat engine caught fire off the Libyan coast during an attempted Mediterranean crossing, a rescue charity said on Tuesday.
The accident occurred last March 18, according to Alarm Phone, a volunteer-run Mediterranean rescue hotline.
More than 100 people were on the boat when it caught fire, according to accounts by eyewitnesses and survivors.
“Several survivors reported to Alarm Phone that there had been more victims than survivors,” Alarm Phone said in a statement.
Alarm Phone said they were initially contacted by someone on the boat and Libyan authorities told them shortly after that 45 people had been rescued and five bodies retrieved.
The charity said witness testimony they gathered suggested about 60 people were missing and presumed dead.
Some witnesses said they saw people jumping into the water after the boat’s fuel supply went up in flames.
On Tuesday, European humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee said Italy would allow 116 migrants to leave its Ocean Viking ship after they were rescued in two operations last week off the coast of Libya.
“The Italian authorities have allocated the port of Augusta, in Sicily, for the disembarkation of 116 rescued people,” the charity wrote on Twitter.
More than 1,200 migrants died last year trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Some 295 migrants have died or gone missing while trying to make the journey across the Mediterranean since the beginning of 2021.