According to rescue teams who were searching for the survivors in rough sees and darkness, at least 100 people went missing, feared dead or maybe drowned on Tuesday in the Mediterranean after a rubber boat carrying an unknown number of people flipped in heavy seas.
German NGO Jugend Rettet, whose boat was at the scene, said 23 survivors had been rescued by an oil tanker which was first to reach the stricken boat.
Italy’s coastguard sent ships to help at least two different migrant boats on Tuesday amid two-meter waves and winds of up to 25 knots, said Mathilde Auvillain, spokeswoman for SOS Mediterranee on board the humanitarian group’s Aquarius rescue vessel.
The survivors and four recovered corpses were transferred from the tanker to the Aquarius, a boat operated by another charity group, SOS Mediterranee.
A survivor told one of the organization’s staff that the dinghy had began to sink at 6am, four hours before the tanker arrived. He said, “We were 122 on the boat, no children under 15, but there were 10 women traveling with us and only one survived.” He added, “We waited in the water, taking any floating thing to remain afloat, but most of the people drowned, including my little brother. He was 15. At 10 the tanker came and rescued us. I want to call home to tell them that my brother died.”
Attempts to find survivors were continuing but were being hampered by very poor conditions and the chances of of finding anyone alive appeared slim.
An oil tanker pulled 15 people from the water about 30 nautical miles (55 km) off the Libyan coast on Monday after a rubber boat drowned in heavy sea.
A coastguard spokesperson said that the survivors have since been taken on board a coastguard vessel and are being taken to Catania, Sicily.
On Monday, the Aquarius recovered five dead bodies from a rubber dinghy and the crew saw another person drown but was not able to recover the body.