Death toll from boat collision off Tunisia rises to 25
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — The death toll from the collision of a Tunisian navy ship with a wooden boat packed with migrants off the North African country’s coast has risen to 25 with the recovery of 17 more bodies, military authorities said Monday.
A defense ministry statement said navy divers spotted the wreck of the makeshift craft at the bottom of the sea off Kerkennah island Sunday. They recovered 11 bodies on or near the site Sunday and six more bodies Monday, it said. Eight bodies were recovered earlier, and Tunisian officials have said 38 people were rescued after the Oct. 8 collision.
An unknown number of people from the boat are still missing. The International Organization for Migration, the U.N. migration agency, says it is believed the boat was carrying around 75 Tunisian migrants but one rescued migrant said more than 90 people were aboard.
Prime Minister Youssef Chahed has called the collision a “national disaster”
The cause remains unclear as military investigators are working to determine the circumstances of the collision and establish responsibilities.
The number of Tunisians making their way from Tunisia to Italy is on the rise. The U.N. migration agency says 1,400 Tunisians arrived in Italy last month alone, compared with 1,357 in the first eight months of the year.
But non-governmental groups in Sicily estimate three times that many have arrived since June, most in wooden boats that get left on the shore.
According to the U.N. agency, 2,658 migrants have died or gone missing so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean in rickety smugglers’ boats, almost all of which try to reach Italy. That compares with 3,682 deaths for all of last year.