At least 14 dead on refugee boat off Libya: Official

Police say wooden boat was found off Misrata with two bodies on board, adding that 12 others were thrown into the sea.

    A Libyan official said at least 14 refugees died off the North African nation's coast while attempting to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

    Colonel Hisham Aldwaini, a spokesman for Misrata's security forces, said on Tuesday a wooden boat was found off the Libyan port city with two bodies on board. He added that 12 others had been thrown into the sea and died.

    Aldwaini said 10 refugees were rescued from the boat, which was adrift at sea for days without food or water.

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    An Egyptian survivor told Reuters news agency the refugees died after spending nearly two weeks without provisions.

    "We were 25 migrants on a boat... We set off from [the western Libyan town of] Sabratah and we were at sea for 12 days without food and water," the survivor said, giving the number of dead at 15.

    The owner of a beach chalet found the refugees washed up on shore near Misrata and called authorities, who brought them to the Red Crescent relief service and hospitals. Residents also said the 10 refugees appeared to be in extremely poor health.

    Libya's western coast is a departure point for mainly sub-Saharan African refugees and migrants fleeing wars and poverty and hoping for new lives in Europe.

    However, since last year, the number of them reaching Italy, located just across the Mediterranean, has fallen sharply as smuggling networks in Libya have been disrupted and the European Union has stepped up efforts to boost Libyan coastguard patrols.

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    SOURCE: News agencies