By Ahmed Elumami and Tom Miles
TRIPOLI/GENEVA, July 25 (Reuters) – About 115 people are missing and feared to have drowned and another 134 were rescued by Libyan coast guards and local fishermen after a wooden boat carrying migrants capsized off Libya, a Libyan navy official said on Thursday.
Earlier, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said that up to 150 people were feared dead.
“The worst Mediterranean tragedy of this year has just occurred,” UNHCR head Filippo Grandi said in a tweet.
There were about 250 people on board, mainly from Eritrea and other sub-Saharan Africa and Arab countries, when the boat capsized off the coast near Khoms, east of Tripoli, Libyan navy spokesman Ayoub Qassem said.
Libya is a hub for migrants and refugees, many of whom try to reach Europe in unseaworthy boats.
The latest shipwreck takes the death toll of Mediterranean migrants to over 600 this year, putting 2019 on track to be the sixth year in a row with more than 1,000 deaths, UNHCR spokesman Charlie Yaxley said.
“Until we address the reasons why people take these dangerous boat journeys, sadly, this is unlikely to be the last tragedy like this that we see,” he said.
Yaxley said survivors of the wreck were likely to be brought to two detention centers in Libya where they would face further risks, and he called for their immediate release.