Seven migrants were killed, including a child, and four pregnant women are feared dead after their inflatable dinghy deflated off the coast of Libya on Friday. A local oil tanker rescued some 102 others from the same vessel, after they were spotted in the water when their boat ran into trouble.
“We were some 22 nautical miles northeast of Tripoli when at around 9 am (0700 GMT) we spotted … a group of people in the water,” Mohammed al-Kone, an officer on board a Libyan oil tanker.
“They were near a rubber boat which had deflated but was carrying seven bodies, including that of a small child,” he told AFP, adding that the survivors had reported four pregnant women missing.
The tanker took the survivors to Tripoli Port – where a grief-stricken survivor identified the child as his own among those who died.
Over 450,000 migrants and refugees have arrived to Europe by the perilous sea crossing already this year – many from Libya’s 2000km coastline. Some 2,812 people have died.
Exploiting the escalating chaos, heavily armed smugglers in Libya have built lucrative networks across the western coast of the war-torn country making thousands putting vulnerable migrants and refugee boats on rickety boats everyday.
Earlier this month, Libya’s coastguard said it rescued more than 100 migrants off Qarabulli, 60 kilometres (36 miles) east of Tripoli, after the engine on their rubber dinghy broke down.