Scores of migrants are feared to have drowned after a rubber dinghy believed to have been carrying 130 people capsized in rough seas North-East of the Libyan capital Tripoli.
The NGOs Alarm Phone and SOS Mediterranee reported the tragedy and hit out at neighbouring countries for not having rescued the migrants even though the alarm about the boat was raised several hours earlier.
Alarm Phone in a tweet accused the authorities and Frontex - the EU border control agency - of having 'let them drown' by ignoring alerts when the boat made radio contact earlier.
"Only bodies were found' when the migrant rescue ship Ocean Viking reached the area where the boat had been, Alarm Phone added.
SOS Mediterranee, which operates the Ocean Viking, said its crew had to witness the devastating aftermath of the capsize.
Rescue Coordinator Luisa Albera said the boat had been reported in distress on Wednesday morning.
"Today, after hours of search, our worst fear has come true. The crew of the Ocean Viking had to witness the devastating aftermath of the shipwreck of a rubber boat."— SOS MEDITERRANEE (@SOSMedIntl) April 22, 2021
Statement by Luisa, Search & Rescue Coordinator on #OceanViking.https://t.co/KwYQla8ccM
"In the past 48 hours, civil hotline Alarm Phone alerted us to a total of three boats in distress in international waters off Libya. All of them were at least ten hours from our position at the time of reception of the alerts. We searched for two of these boats, one after the other, in a race against time and in very rough seas, with up to 6-metre waves. In the absence of effective State-led coordination, three merchant vessels and the Ocean Viking cooperated to organise the search in extremely difficult sea conditions," she said.
"Today, while we searched relentlessly without receiving support from the responsible maritime authorities, three dead bodies were spotted in the water by merchant ship My Rose. A Frontex airplane spotted the wreck of a rubber boat soon after. Since we arrived on scene today, we have not found any survivors while we could see at least ten bodies in the vicinity of the wreck.
"We are heartbroken. We think of the lives that have been lost and of the families who might never have certainty as to what happened to their loved ones."
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