Body count hits 68 since migrant boat sinking off Tunisia

A representative of the Tunisian Red Crescent association checks bodies recovered from a boat carrying 86 migrants that capsized off the Tunisian coast while crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy, as they lie on a beach in Aghir in Tunisia's southern island of Djerba on July 6, 2019. (AFP / ANIS MILI)
Updated 11 July 2019

Body count hits 68 since migrant boat sinking off Tunisia

  • Libya has in recent years been a major departure point for migrants seeking to reach Europe

TUNIS: The Red Crescent said 38 more bodies were recovered Thursday from the sea off Tunisia, raising to 68 the number found since an Italy-bound boat filled with migrants sank last week, the worst migrant boat disasters to date.
Thirty-six of the apparent victims were found close to Zarzis in southeast Tunisia and two off the nearby island of Djerba, the Tunisian Red Crescent’s Mongi Slim said.
A Malian survivor, one of only three to have escaped with their lives, has told the UN’s International Organization for Migration that 86 people had been on board the dinghy which capsized on July 1.
“Only today, the Coast Guard recovered 38 bodies off the coast of Zarzis, bringing the death toll to 58,” said Mongi Slim, an official of the Tunisian Red Crescent.
The boat, filled with mostly African migrants, tipped over shortly after setting out from the Libyan town of Zuwara, west of Tripoli, with the aim of reaching Italy.
Tunisian fishermen rescued four people who were on board the same overcrowded boat but one later died in hospital, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said last week.
Libya has in recent years been a major departure point for migrants seeking to reach Europe in perilous journeys across the Mediterranean.

Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

Updated 20 July 2019

Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

  • Hazza Al-Mansoori 'living a dream' as he and backup astronaut train for space mission in September
  • Soyuz-MS 15 launch could be the beginning of a bold new era of Arab exploration of space

DUBAI: More than 30 years after an Arab first journeyed into space, an  Emirati is preparing to become the latest Arab space traveler when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) in September.

For months, Hazza Al-Mansoori and backup pilot Sultan Al-Neyadi have been undergoing intensive training in Russia, Germany and the US to prepare for the mission. The first Emirati to travel into space will make the historic journey on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

During the eight-day mission, he will conduct a tour of the ISS for Arabic viewers on Earth and carry out 15 experiments for the Science in Space schools competition conducted by Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center.

The crew, who will include an American and a Russian, are allowed to take up to 1 kg of personal items with them on the mission.

“I will take my family photo and share the experience of being in space with them,” Al-Mansoori said. There will also be an image of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father, meeting American astronauts in 1976.

“I am also going to take an Emirati flag. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.”

‘I will take an Emirati flag into space. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.’

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori

Al-Mansoori will join an elite space club comprising Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman and Syria’s Muhammed Faris. Prince Sultan became the first Arab to travel to space as part of space shuttle Discovery’s crew in 1985. Faris was a crew member of USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987.

The Emirati astronaut is aware that history is resting on his shoulders. Speaking to the media recently during his training program in Houston, Al-Mansoori  said it is a huge personal honor to be the first Emirati chosen for space exploration.

“I’m excited about the whole mission, but especially to experience the microgravity and be living in the ISS, and conducting daily experiments and working with the amazing group on board,” he said.

Al-Mansoori and Al-Neyadi have been undergoing rigorous training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program includes familiarization with NASA equipment on board the space station, and handling emergency situations, such as ammonia gas leaks and depressurization.

The Emiratis have been trained to fend for themselves if the return goes off course and they land in the wilderness of Russia.

Speaking of the Soyuz-MS 15 mission, Yousuf Al-Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, said: “We strive to see the UAE Astronaut Program achieve its objective of preparing generations of Emiratis who will contribute to enhancing the country’s position in space science and research to serve the ambitious aspirations aimed at building a national knowledge-based economy.”

The September launch could prove to be the beginning of a bold new era for Arabs and space. Al-Neyadi, the backup pilot, has been promised a seat on a future mission, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia are drawing up ambitious plans for the development of the region’s space industry.