At least 42 people have died after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized near the Egyptian coastline. The boat was reportedly carrying migrants and refugees from Egypt, Syria and several African countries.
A rescue mission is underway off the coast of Egypt after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants sunk, killing 42 people and injuring five, reported health officials on Wednesday.
"Initial information indicates that the boat sank because it was carrying more people than its limit. The boat tilted and the migrants fell into the water," a senior security official in the northern province of Beheira told Reuters news agency.
The dead include 20 men, 10 women and one child, reported local authorities. A correspondant for Reuters later witnessed several more bodies being brought in on a fishing boat, raising the death toll.
Around 155 people have been rescued so far, said Beheira official Alaa Osman, adding that workers are still pulling bodies from the water. Other Egyptian officials have said the migrants and refugees on board came from Syria, Egypt, Sudan and several African countries.
Initial reports from Egypt's state news agency MENA said 600 people were aboard the vessel. Another report from the private Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm said the boat was carrying 300 migrants.
It was not immediately clear where the boat was headed, but authorities believe the ship was en route to Italy.
With the closure of the Balkan route and a migrant deal with Turkey to halt departures, asylum seekers trying to reach Europe have looked to other paths, turning more and more to departure points in Egypt and Libya.
Egypt is starting to become a departure country," Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri told the Funke Group of German newspapers in June.
"The number of boat crossings from Egypt to Italy has reached 1,000 (so far) this year," he said.
Human smugglers often overcrowd the boats, which are typically unfit for the dangerous sea crossing.
Around 320 refugees drowned off the Greek island of Crete in June. Afterwards, survivors told officials that the boat set off from Egypt. Over 2,800 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean in the first six months of this year, according to the International Organization for Migration.
rs/jil (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)