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Libya: 130 people feared dead after rubber boat capsizes in Mediterranean

Rescue vessels find 10 bodies and search for others after a boat sunk off Tripoli en route to Europe
French NGO SOS Mediterranee posted a picture of the boat in the Mediterranean Sea (Reuters)

More than 100 people are feared dead in the Mediterranean Sea after their rubber boat capsized en route to Europe from the coast of Libya. 

French humanitarian organisation SOS Mediterranee said it had recovered at least 10 bodies from the accident and fear at least 130 people were on board the vessel. 

The NGO added that another wooden boat was still missing and may have had another 40 people on board. 

"Today, after hours of search, our worst fear has come true," said Louisa Alberta, search and rescue coordinator for SOS Mediterranee. 

"'The crew of the Ocean Viking had to witness the devastating aftermath of the shipwreck of a rubber boat northeast of Tripoli.

"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," she added.

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Earlier this week, the civil hotline AlarmPhone reported three boats in distress. The call prompted SOS Mediterranee to launch a search party. 

Three merchant vessels helped the charity's rescue ship Ocean Viking search for the boats in international waters near Tripoli.

SOS Mediterranee said merchant ship My Rose found three bodies in the water, and a plane from EU border agency Frontex spotted the rubber boat soon after.

When Ocean Viking arrived on the scene it did not find any survivors. There were 10 bodies in the water nearby.

The statement on Twitter carried a photograph of a capsized black rubber boat.

The UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the latest incidents could bring the death toll on the central Mediterranean migration route to nearly 500 people this year, triple the toll of 2020. 

"States stood defiant and refused to act to save the lives of more than 100 people," said IOM's Safa Msehli. 

"Let it be clear that it is [a] state responsibility to respond to distress calls at sea."