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111 refugees dead in Libya shipwreck

Rescuers have retrieved from the sea the bodies of 111 refugees whose boat sank off the coat of Libya, the Red Crescent said on Saturday.

A spokesman for the Libyan relief organisation said dozens are still missing after Thursday’s tragedy.

“So far 111 bodies have been retrieved from the sea while dozens of people are still missing,” the spokesman Mohammad al-Misrati told AFP. He said the boat carried 400 would-be refugees, and that 198 had been rescued.

On Saturday Misrati said that 76 bodies had been retrieved after the boat sunk near the western Libyan port of Zuwara.

Red Crescent teams wearing protective white clothing and masks yesterday collected bodies that had washed ashore, placing them in orange plastic bags and carrying them to ambulances.

Libya, with a coastline of 1,770 kilometres (more than 1,000 miles), has for years been a stepping stone for Africans seeking a better life in Europe, with most heading for Italy. Conflicts across the Middle East, especially in Syria, have also made Libya a transit country for those fleeing violence in the region.

People smugglers have taken advantage of the chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi to step up their lucrative business. The Mediterranean crossing is treacherous, and about 2,500 people have died at sea trying to reach Europe this year.