July 27, 2019 / 1:34 PM / a month ago

55 bodies recovered from Libya shipwreck - aid worker

Bags containing the bodies of migrants who died after their wooden boat capsized off the coast of Komas, are seen in the hangar belonging to an anti-illegal migration department in the town east of the capital Tripoli, Libya July 27, 2019. REUTERS/Ayman al-Sahili

KOMAS, Libya (Reuters) - Fifty-five bodies have been recovered so far off the Libyan coast, an aid worker said on Saturday, after a wooden boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized on Thursday.

Search operations are continuing to find other missing migrants, a member of Libyan Red Crescent told Reuters by phone.

It was unclear how many people were on board and how many are still missing and feared to have been drowned after what the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR described as “the worst Mediterranean tragedy of this year.”

Red Crescent member Abdulmenam Abu Sabay said the boat, which capsized near Komas, some 120 km (74.6 miles) east of Tripoli, was carrying 350 people, mostly from Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Libyan navy on Thursday put the number of migrants on board at 250 and the UNHCR said up to 150 were feared dead.

Libyan coast guards and local fishermen rescued 134 migrants on Thursday.

“We do not have enough capability to carry out our operations. Citizens help us with their own vehicles,” Abu Sabay said.

“The bodies are still in bags in a hangar and we are waiting for security authorities’ permission to bury them,” he added. The hangar belongs to a department set up to fight illegal migration.

Libya is a hub for migrants and refugees, many of whom try to reach Europe in unseaworthy boats.

Reporting By Ahmed Elumami and Ayman Sahili; Editing by Clelia Oziel

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