Up to 500 people feared dead in migrant shipwreck off Libya

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As many as 500 people are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea while attempting to travel by boat from North Africa to Europe, making it the worst such incident in more than a year, the UN refugee agency reports.

The incident happened last week and had been reported on earlier by a number of news agencies, but uncertainty remained over the credibility of the reports until Wednesday, when the UN’s refugee agency confirmed that it had spoken with survivors.

According to those interviewed, a group of between 100 and 200 people left near the Libyan port city of Tobruk on a 30-meter-long boat. The smugglers later attempted to transfer the passengers to a larger ship that was already carrying hundreds of people, but the ship capsized and sank during the transfer.

The UN refugee agency believes as many as 500 people drowned, making ti one of the worst tragedies on the Mediterranean Sea.

A total of 41 people survived the shipwreck, including people who had not yet boarded the larger vessel as well as some who managed to swim back to the smaller boat. The group – 37 men, 3 women and a 3-year-old child – drifted at sea for about 3 days before they were rescued by a merchant ship on Saturday.

The ship took the survivors to the Greek city of Kalamata, where they are temporarily being housed in a stadium while undergoing police procedures. The UN refugee agency identified the survivors as 23 Somalis, 11 Ethiopians, 6 Egyptians, and a Sudanese national.

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