Volunteers, aid workers from the Libya Red Crescent, and Zuwarans moved into action by the unfolding tragedy, have recovered 116 bodies from a stretch of coast west of the town right up to the Tunisian border in the past days.
They are the victims of the latest tragedies off the shores of Zuwara, a coastal town about 60kms west of Tripoli, known as a major hub for migrants wanting to cross to Europe by boat. “This tragedy has shaken the community,” said Ibrahim Gibara, an official of the Zuwara municipality.
“We are not for this, we are against it. When you see the bodies of small children, it’s just too much,” he said.
Some of the volunteers took pictures of the bodies and sent them to Migrant Report. We are reproducing some of them today, because it’s a grim reality that we feel needs to be publicised.
The town has seen two boats capsize off its shores in as many days. One took place on Wednesday and involved a boat carrying around 40 people. Rescuers pulled out 25 people and three bodies but 12 people remain unaccounted for.
Simultaneously, on Wednesday morning, a few miles further out at sea, European rescuers discovered 52 bodies in the hold of a wooden boat carrying almost 500 migrants.
Then on Thursday the Zuwara coastguard responded to a second May Day this time involving a boat carrying between 430 and 470 people. Sources at the municipality, the Libya Red Crescent and Zuwara police say 180 people have been rescued and 116 bodies recovered, leaving at least 250 people unaccounted for.
The boats are believed to have capsized due to bad weather prevailing in the seas off Zuwara between Wednesday and Thursday. The first incident took place at around 4am on Wednesday 26th. The boat had been at sea since about midnight.
The second May Day came at around noon on Thursday. A source at the Zuwara police station said the boat appears to have left from a beach on the westernmost part of the town, near the border with Tunisia at about 2am – a very strange time for departures which normally take place before midnight so the boats would sail out of Libyan territorial waters overnight.
Survivors also gave conflicting information. A Syrian woman at the Zuwara hospital said they had been at sea for 16 hours. However, the police believes this could not be possible given the time frames provided by other survivors.
She was rescued along with her husband and three year old son, however, they are missing their eldest, aged 6. “She was in a state of confusion poor woman, she said she was praying that the boy was rescued by some European ship,” a Zuwara municipality official who spoke to her told Migrant Report.