CAIRO, Egypt, Sept 27 – Egypt recovered at least 11 more bodies Tuesday from last week’s migrant shipwreck off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, a local official said, raising the death toll to 179 people.
“The sunken boat was pulled out half an hour ago,”, Wahdan al-Sayed, spokesman for Beheira province in northern Egypt, told AFP.
He said 11 bodies more bodies had so far been found.
Survivors have said up to 450 migrants were on board the overcrowded fishing vessel headed to Italy from Egypt when it keeled over off the port city of Rosetta on September 14.
Egypt’s military says 163 survivors have been rescued.
On Monday, police detained the owner of the vessel. A judicial source said he could face charges of human trafficking and involuntary manslaughter.
A specialised ship with divers belonging to a petroleum company worked at the site of the shipwreck some 12 kilometres (eight miles) offshore to pull the boat back up to the surface.
Survivors have said many migrants were trapped in the boat’s hold when it keeled over.
The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, said Friday that most of those rescued were Egyptians but they also included migrants from Sudan, Eritrea, Syria and Ethiopians.
“Since 2014, there has been a steady increase in the number of interceptions of refugees and migrants trying to leave Egypt in an irregular manner,” the UNHCR said.
“Many refugees and migrants may be using Egypt as a transit country,” it said, adding 2016 was expected to be the deadliest year on record for Mediterranean crossings by migrants.
More than 10,000 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014, according to the United Nations.
Egyptian authorities have so far this year foiled 110 attempts to smuggle migrants to Europe, Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar said.
More than 4,600 non-Egyptians, many of them Sudanese and Ethiopians, have been arrested this year trying to depart from Egypt’s northern coast, the UNHCR said.