Bodies of 61 migrants recovered from shipwreck off Tunisia

Workers bury a dozen of migrants at the cemetery of Sfax after the sinking of their boat in front of the island of Kerkennah. (File/AFP)
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Updated 14 June 2020

Bodies of 61 migrants recovered from shipwreck off Tunisia

  • The Tunisian Coast Guard said at least 22 women, one of them pregnant, and four children were among the dead
  • Authorities have launched an investigation, and believe that the death toll could be higher

ROME: The bodies of 61 African migrants have been recovered after a shipwreck occurred 10 days ago off the coast of Tunisia.
The Tunisian Coast Guard said at least 22 women, one of them pregnant, and four children were among the dead.
Tunisian authorities have launched an investigation, and believe that the death toll could be higher. The Coast Guard believes that the boat had left the city of Sfax, on Tunisia’s coast, aiming to reach Italy.
“We believe that the boat was too full … It has been a massacre,” a Coast Guard spokesman told Italian news agency ANSA.
In April, Italy and Malta declared their seaports “unsafe” due to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite that, more boats and dinghies carrying migrants have been reported trying to reach Italy.
Vincent Cochetel, special envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said he fears that more migrants will try to make the crossing during the summer.
“Fifty-three percent of migrants and refugees lost their jobs during the COVID-19 restrictions in Tunisia,” he added.
“It is not clear how many will manage to get a job back or will face tougher competition with locals. Despair drives people to risk their lives and smugglers keep lying to them.”
As weather conditions improve, more boats have been departing from North Africa. Authorities in Lampedusa, an Italian island half way between Tunisia and Sicily, have reported more arrivals.
Many of those on board have been transferred by ferry to the Italian mainland to decrease pressure on the island.
According to the UNHCR, attempts to reach the Italian coast from Tunisia increased by 150 percent from January to April this year compared with the same period in 2019.
“We can’t tolerate this massacre anymore. We must act now. Europe must act to stop tragedies like this,” Leoluca Orlando, mayor of Sicily’s capital Palermo, told Arab News.
“We can’t just sit looking at what happens in the Mediterranean. We simply can’t let those tragedies happen anymore.”
Italy’s government has repeatedly called for European cooperation in this regard. “Without a comprehensive European strategy on refugees and migrants, we will never stop this tragedy. Italy cannot be left alone,” Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese told Avvenire daily newspaper.


Iran reports COVID-19 death every five minutes, hospitals struggle

Updated 14 min 37 sec ago

Iran reports COVID-19 death every five minutes, hospitals struggle

  • Some experts have doubted the accuracy of Iran’s official coronavirus tolls

DUBAI: Hospitals in many Iranian provinces are running out of capacity to handle COVID-19 cases, health authorities say, with novel coronavirus now killing around 300 people a day or one person every five minutes.

Authorities have complained of poor social distancing, and Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi said the pandemic could cause 600 daily deaths in coming weeks if Iranians failed to respect health protocols in the Middle East’s hardest-affected country.

A caption that ran on state television news said an Iranian died of novel coronavirus every five minutes, a rate that corresponds to daily death tallies reported by the authorities of just above or below 300 over the past 20 days.

Health Ministry spokesman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV on Sunday that 32,616 people had died of the disease and the number of confirmed cases had reached 568,896.

Some experts have doubted the accuracy of Iran’s official coronavirus tolls. A report by the Iranian parliament’s research center in April suggested that the coronavirus tolls might be almost twice as many as those announced by the health ministry.

The report said that Iran’s official coronavirus figures were based only on the number of deaths in hospitals and those who had already tested positive for the coronavirus.

Schools, mosques, shops, restaurants and other public institutions in Tehran have been closed since Oct. 3. As COVID-19 cases and deaths continued to hit record levels, the closure was extended until Nov. 20, state TV reported.

Officials said “extreme measures and limitations” will be imposed in at least 43 counties across the country for one week, where the infection rates have been alarming. TV reported that 21 one of Iran’s 31 provinces were on a coronavirus red alert.

Iran has blamed US sanctions for hampering Tehran’s efforts to tackle the outbreak. Washington, accusing Iran of “incompetent and deadly governance,” has refused to lift sanctions that were reimposed after 2018 when Trump exited Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six powers.