A vessel carrying up to 600 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Rashid on Wednesday, with hundreds still missing amid fears the death toll will increase dramatically.
Officials say 42 people have been found dead, and around 163 rescued, as search operations continue, according to AFP.
A municipal official told AFP the deceased are Egyptian, Eritrean, Sudanese and Syrian, and include one child, 10 women and 31 men.
Photos circulating on social media have shown a number of survivors handcuffed to their beds at Rosetta hospital, with reporters from the hospital saying many are under 20 years old.
The prosecution ordered the detention of four people who allegedly own the boat for four days pending investigations into charges of human trafficking and manslaughter, Aswat Masriya reported on Thursday. Representatives from Damanhour prosecution are currently listening to the testimonies of survivors.
Brigadier General Mohamed Khereissa, an official from Beheira governorate’s Security Directorate, told MENA that the vessel, said to be destined for Italy, had departed from the town of Borg Megheizal in the neighboring governorate of Kafr al-Sheikh.
Several headlines in Egyptian newspapers Thursday morning stressed the illegal nature of the attempted crossing.
Egypt’s Ministry of Defense reported that 68 “infiltrators” had been apprehended from another small boat on Tuesday in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Matrouh governorate, along with four Egyptian crew members. The passengers’ nationalities were not specified, and the ministry only reported that they were hoping to reach southern Europe.
On September 10, security forces from Kafr al-Sheikh arrested 155 people attempting to reach the shores of Italy, Aswat Masriya reported, including: 114 Egyptians, 13 Sudanese, 14 Somalis, nine Syrians, two from Sierra Leone, two from Guinea and one Liberian national.
According to estimated figures from the International Organization for Migration, as of May 31, 204,311 migrants arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean Sea this year alone. Of these, 2,443 are estimated to have drowned, or remain unaccounted for.
The IOM approximates that a total of 1,011,712 migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, and that over 5,350 of them died in life-threatening sea voyages to southern European countries, particularly Greece, Italy and, to a lesser extent, Spain and Cyprus.