By Tuesday morning, the Tunisian coast guard had recovered 51 bodies and rescued 68 people, according to the country’s interior ministry, which estimates that 180 people were on board. The remaining missing people are presumed dead — causing Monday’s initial death toll of 48 to rise significantly.T he boat was 16 nautical miles off the Sfax coast — 170 miles south of the capital Tunis — when it sent a distress signal at 10:45 p.m. local time (5.45 p.m. ET) on Saturday, the interior ministry said.
The migrants reportedly paid 2,000 to 3,000 Tunisian dinars ($780 to $1,170) for the crossing, according to Lorena Lando, IOM chief of mission in Tunisia. The “fragile and overloaded” fishing boat began taking on water two hours after leaving the coast of the Kerkennah Islands, near Sfax, IOM said Tuesday.
Around 120 people in the boat were Tunisian, according to Lando. Several people from sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Libyans and Moroccans, are among the survivors. Some of the dead are yet to be identified.
“There are no words to describe this tragedy,” said Lando. “Behind these numbers, men, women and children have lost their lives while pursuing an uncertain dream.”