The Egyptian Navy recovered the bodies of nine people and rescued 31 from a sunken boat attempting to cross the Mediterranean on Monday, with hundreds of people reportedly still unaccounted for.
Around 600 people from different nationalities were on the boat, according to the privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, meaning hundreds are still lost at sea.
The boat was attempting the dangerous crossing to Europe, and sank shortly after leaving Alexandria.
Twenty-six of the 31 that were rescued are Egyptian citizens, with the other five of Eritrean, Ethiopian and Sudanese nationalities, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. One of the nine dead was also Egyptian, possibly indicating a high number of Egyptians among the remaining passengers that are still missing.
The survivors were taken to a naval base in Alexandria. Alaa Abdel Fattah, assistant to the head of the National Security Agency, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that they were then transferred to customs authorities for legal processing.
The boat sank about 420 kilometers northwest of Alexandria, 160 kilometers south of Greece, a security source stated.
Military spokesperson Mohamed Samir told the privately owned Al-Arabiya that the navy got a signal from the boat when it was about 265 kilometers north of Saloum facing heavy waves.
Another boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea less than a week ago, approximately 140 kilometers south of the Greek island of Crete, in international waters within Egypt’s search and rescue area.
Initially, Greek and Egyptian coastguards reported rescuing 340 people from the boat and the bodies of four people who died. Nikos Lagadianos, spokesperson for the Greek coastguard, told the Associated Press on Friday that the number of people on the boat was unclear. “We’ve heard that there were 400 or 500 people on board, but we cannot confirm that number,” he stated.
On Tuesday, however, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), Reuters reported that the death toll had risen to 320, making Friday’s disaster the deadliest incident for people crossing the Mediterranean this year.
“We learned from survivors in Italy, in Augusta, that 648 or 650 men, women and children were on that ship. We heard both numbers from different survivors who took pains to explain that the smugglers made a count twice a day before the departure,” IOM spokesperson Joel Millman stated. “We now fear some 320 migrants and refugees remain missing based on testimony received from survivors.”
At least 10 bodies have been recovered, according to Millman. The exact number of survivors is still not clear, but “appeared to be over 300.”
Those seeking to flee the country by sea, many en route to Europe, risk their lives and often pay exorbitant sums of money to fixers. They are typically transported in small boats, which are usually overcrowded.
According to data and figures compiled by the United Nations, 205,297 people reached Europe in 2016 after crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Approximately 2,510 have drowned in the past five months alone, and 8,000 in the last two-and-a-half years.
This article has been updated since it was originally published.