Dozens die after migrant boat capsizes off Egyptian coast


Survivors from a boat which capsized off the Egyptian coast on Wednesday have told the BBC that hundreds of people may have drowned.

Officials say the four, whom they did not identify nor specify their link to the incident, have been remanded into police custody for four days pending further investigation.

Survivors said up to 450 migrants were on board the fishing vessel when it sank about 12 kilometres (eight miles) off the coast of Rosetta, an Egyptian Mediterranean port city, on Wednesday morning.

Hundreds of migrants are feared dead after Wednesday's sinking, with just 163 people rescued and 43 bodies recovered, the country's military said in a statement.

Some 1.3 million migrants reached Europe previous year fleeing war and economic hardship, prompting bitter disputes among European countries over how to share responsibility.

Mohamed, a 28-year-old Egyptian welder, managed to stay afloat until a rescue boat found him. Those on the boat that sank included people from Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as Egyptians.

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Egypt's prime minister, Ismail Sharif, on Thursday pledged to divert all possible resources to an ongoing search and rescue off the Egyptian coast, and said those responsible for the disaster must be held accountable.

However, in recent years, several people from different strife-hit countries tried to find illegal methods to escape from their countries and head to Europe in order to find better life.

The deadly accident comes months after the EU's border agency Frontex warned that growing numbers of migrants bound for Europe were turning to Egypt as a departure point for the risky sea journey. Some 320 migrants and refugees drowned off the Greek island of Crete in June. The boats carrying migrants usually depart from this area with a lot of them bound for the Italian mainland. "The boat tilted and the migrants fell into the water", a senior security official told Reuters. It was not immediately clear where the boat had been heading, though officials said they believed it was going to Italy.

There were also 25 Sudanese, while the rest were sub-Saharan Africans and Syrians. "Those are dead, for sure".

Numerous survivors in the latest incident have been detained by police. "And this is what caused the catastrophe", he said. "They paid money to go and die", he said.

"Those. that knew how to swim moved away [from the boat], leaving behind women and small children", he said. According to survivors of the wreck, their boat originated from Egypt.