As many as 250 migrants are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after two boats capsized off the coast of Libya, aid workers said on Thursday. A search is underway for a third boat which sent out a call for help.
The discovery was made on Thursday morning when the vessel Golfo Azzurro came across a partially submerged rubber dinghy about 14 miles (22 kilometers) off the Libyan coast. A second boat was found in the same area a short time later.
The Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms said it recovered 5 bodies from the water and there were no signs of survivors. “In each of the boats there would probably have been more than 100 people whose lives have been swallowed by the mass grave of the Mediterranean,” the charity said in a statement.
Vincent Cochetel, of the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, said it was “deeply alarmed” by the news. “Given the fact that those type of rubber dinghies are usually crammed with 120 to 130 people, we fear that the actual death toll might be much higher,” he said.
Cochetel added that the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Rome had also received a call for help from a third boat, but the fate of this vessel was not immediately known. Rescue boats are patrolling the area in an effort to locate the vessel.
Excluding Thursday’s incidents, at least 587 people have drowned so far this year while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. A record 5,096 people drowned or went missing in 2016, making the Mediterranean Sea the world’s deadliest stretch of water for migrants and refugees.
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