The bodies of 162 people had been pulled from the waters off the Egyptian coast by Friday, two days after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized in the Mediterranean while attempting to head to Europe.
Dozens more are feared dead, said Mohammed Sultan, the governor of Beheira, who provided The Associated Press with the latest figures. He also said that the search operation is still ongoing. Many of them are believed to be children and women who were unable to swim away when the boat sank.
Wahdan el-Sayyed, the spokesman of the Nile Delta province of Beheira, told The Associated Press that the search operation was ongoing.
An AP reporter near the Nile Delta city of Rosetta saw between 20 to 30 bodies brought in by coast guards in gray inflatable boats and fishermen in wooden boats early Friday morning and delivered to ambulances at the coast guard pier. Pictures posted on social networking sites showed dozens of bodies lined up in black plastic bags, and others floating near wooden fishing boats. Videos showed that some fishermen were using nets to bring up the bodies.
In one video, a fisherman was heard shouting into his mobile phone that, “the sea is littered with bodies.”
Many of those gathered at the shore where the bodies arrived appeared to be wearing surgical masks to protect them from the smell of decaying bodies. Some brought chunks of ice to be placed on the bodies to prevent them from decomposing.
Authorities have struggled to give accurate figures for the number of people on board the capsized vessel. The U.N. Refugee Agency, UNHCR, estimated that the boat was packed with some 450 people, while the state news agency MENA said earlier that the number might be as high as 600.
The boat was located nearly 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the Nile Delta port city of Rosetta when it sank. It had waited at sea for many hours — perhaps days — for smaller wooden boats carrying migrants to arrive from different points along the Egyptian coastline.
Survivors said that overcrowding caused the boat to capsize.
Egyptian officials said that over 160 people were rescued and that the majority are Egyptians, while the others are Ethiopians, Sudanese and other nationalities, including Somalians and Eritreans.