187 Refugees Rescued, Four Dead Off Libya After Boat Fire

187 Refugees Rescued, Four Dead Off Libya After Boat Fire

Libyan coastguards and navy special forces today rescued 187 African migrants and found four bodies after a fire on a boat headed for Europe, a navy spokesman said. 

Colonel Ayoub Qassem, quoted by a news agency operated by Libya's unrecognised authorities in Tripoli, said the rescue took place six nautical miles off Sabratha, 70 kilometres west of the capital. 

He said 187 migrants were rescued from the blazing vessel and another boat nearby, 43 of whom were hospitalised with burns. Four South Africans had been burnt to death. 

An investigation has been opened into the cause of the fire, said Qassem. 

Among the rescued migrants from several countries were 64 Sudanese, 30 Moroccans and an unconfirmed number of Egyptian nationals, he said, adding that nine women and four babies were on the boats. 

The migrants were to be handed over to anti-illegal immigration authorities in Zawia, which lies between Sabratha and Tripoli. 

Yesterday, Italy's coastguard said more than 2,400 migrants and three corpses had been recovered from people smugglers' boats off Libya in the previous 24 hours. 

The figures signal a pick-up in the flow of migrants attempting to reach Italy via Libya, a route through which around 330,000 people have made it to Europe since the start of 2014. 

Prior to the latest rescues, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) had reported 9,500 people landing at Italian ports since the start of this year.  

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