The bodies of 148 people had been pulled from the waters off the Egyptian coast after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized in the Mediterranean while attempting to head to Europe.
Egyptian coast guard personnel, rescue workers and family members look to identify a body that was brought ashore in Rosetta, Egypt
Source: Associated Press
Wahdan el-Sayyed, the spokesman of the Nile Delta province of Beheira, provided the latest figures and told The Associated Press that the search operation was ongoing.
The boat was located nearly 12 kilometres from the Nile Delta port city of Rosetta, when it sank.
It had waited at sea for many hours — perhaps days — for smaller wooden boats carrying migrants to arrive from different points along the Egyptian coastline.
Survivors said that overcrowding caused the boat to capsize.
The head of the local council in the area, Ali Abdel-Sattar, said that the currents have carried the bodies of the victims many kilometres away from the site of the sinking.
He added that many of the migrants are believed to have been "stored in the bottom of the boat, in the fridge."
"Those are the ones who drowned first, most probably stuck, and their bodies might not be retrieved anytime soon," he said, adding, "those we found are the ones liberated from the boat. I believe many are stuck and now laying in the bottom of the sea."
He said the boat may now have sunk to 16 metres below sea level.
The UNHCR estimated that the boat was packed with some 450 people, while the state news agency MENA said earlier that the number might be as high as 600.
"UNHCR is deeply saddened by the loss of life after yet another boat capsized in the Mediterranean," the UN refugee agency said in a statement.
Of the 150 people rescued, UNHCR said that the majority are Egyptians, while the others are Sudanese and other nationalities, including Somalians and Eritreans.
Yesterday, four people described as members of the vessel's crew were arrested over charges of human trafficking and manslaughter.