164 bodies retrieved in Egypt's migrant boat tragedy

Two more dead bodies were recovered on Saturday, bringing to 164 the number of corpses retrieved so far after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants sank off the coast of Egypt three days ago, a provincial official said.

Seventy identified bodies have been handed over to their families while the rest are still in local hospitals, Wahdan al-Sayed, a spokesman for the coastal province of Beheira told state television.

The corpses, pulled out from waters off Beheira's Mediterranean town of Rosetta, where the boat capsized on Wednesday, were those of 91 Egyptians and 73 other African nationals, state-run newspaper al-Ahram reported online.

At least 52 Egyptians were still missing, according to al-Ahram.

A total of 164 people have been rescued from the boat, according to Egyptian officials.  No more survivors were reported on Saturday.

There were conflicting reports about the exact number of people the boat had been carrying. 

Some Egyptian media, citing survivors, said that there were around 500 people on board despite the ship's capacity of 150.

The government on Saturday held an emergency meeting and discussed "repercussions of the accident," Egyptian television said without giving details.

Health Minister Ahmed Emad went to Rosetta where he inspected the town's main hospital and the handover of identified corpses to the victims' families, the broadcaster said.

Earlier on Saturday, authorities arrested two people in connection with the tragedy, the official Middle East News Agency reported.

Police arrested the duo - a fisherman and his mother - in Beheira.

Prosecutors ordered the detainees be kept in police custody for four days pending an investigation into their involvement in the accident, the agency said without giving further details.

Egyptian online portal al-Youm al-Sabaa said that the man and his mother were being held for allegedly using their fishing boat to ferry migrants from the shore to the ship before its fatal journey.

On Thursday, four crew members of the ill-fated vessel were arrested.

In recent years, Egypt has seen an increase in migrants trying to travel across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Regional turmoil and high unemployment rates are believed to be the main factors for the risky journeys.  

Last update: Sun, 25/09/2016 - 17:16
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