Death toll from Tunisia migrant shipwreck rises to 54

The boat, heading for Italy's coast, set sail on Saturday before it sank near the Tunisian city of Sfax, officials say.

    Tunisia's coast has become a common launch point for thousands of migrants seeking to reach Europe [File: Antonio Parrinello/Reuters]
    Tunisia's coast has become a common launch point for thousands of migrants seeking to reach Europe [File: Antonio Parrinello/Reuters]

    The death toll from the sinking of a boat carrying migrants off the Tunisian coast has risen to 54 as more bodies were recovered during the search operations.

    The boat, heading for Italy's coast on Saturday, sank off the Tunisian city of Sfax.

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    Tunisian search teams recovered the bodies of 13 men and women on Thursday, according to the defence ministry.

    Earlier in the week, the bodies of two toddlers and 20 adults washed up on the beaches of Kerkennah Island off the Mediterranean coastal city of Sfax, and 19 other bodies were found floating in nearby waters.

    Navy units and divers from the civil protection services are continuing to search the area for other possible victims, the health director for the Sfax region, Ali Ayadi, told The Associated Press.

    Most of the deceased migrants came from sub-Saharan Africa, according to earlier comments by Sfax courts spokesperson Murad al-Turki.

    The Tunisian coast has become a common launch point for thousands of migrants, including Tunisians, seeking to reach Europe. 

    Last month, Tunisian authorities said at least one migrant drowned and six were missing from another shipwreck. More than 80 were rescued.

    According to the United Nations refugee agency, attempts to reach the Italian coast from Tunisia increased by 150 percent in the first four months of the year, compared with the same period in 2019.

    Last year, 86 people died when their boat sank off the coast of Tunisia's southern town of Zarzis.

    SOURCE: News agencies