CAIRO – Rescuers recovered 53 bodies on Friday from a migrant boat that capsized off the Egyptian coast, bringing the death toll from the disaster to at least 108, a health ministry official said.
“There have been 53 bodies recovered as of 11 am (0900 GMT) on Friday,” said health ministry official Adel Khalifa.
A provincial official put the toll from the incident on Wednesday at 115. It was not immediately possible to explain the discrepancy between the two figures.
Survivors have said up to 450 migrants were on board the fishing vessel that was heading to Italy from Egypt when it keeled over off the port of Rosetta on Wednesday.
The military said it had rescued 163 survivors.
“There were 24 bodies recovered on Friday,” health ministry official Alaa Osman told AFP. Another 55 were brought to shore on Thursday.
Authorities have arrested four suspected people traffickers over the tragedy, the latest in what the UN refugee agency expects to be the deadliest year on record for the Mediterranean.
The accident comes months after the EU border agency Frontex warned that growing numbers of Europe-bound migrants were using Egypt as a departure point for the dangerous voyage.
Traffickers often use barely seaworthy vessels and overload them to extract the maximum money in fares from desperate migrants.
The International Organization for Migration said those rescued included 111 Egyptians, 26 Sudanese, 13 Eritreans, a Syrian and an Ethiopian.
After Balkan countries closed the popular overland route in March and the EU agreed a deal with Turkey to halt departures, asylum-seekers turned to other ways to reach Europe.
Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri said in June that the dangerous crossing from Egypt to Italy, which often takes more than 10 days, was becoming increasingly popular.
More than 300,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year from various points of departure, the UN said this week.
The number is down from 520,000 in the first nine months of 2015.