150 bodies recovered off Tunisia coast: U.N.

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 03, 2011 6:43 AM
150 bodies recovered off Tunisia coast: U.N.

TUNIS (Reuters) - The bodies of 150 African refugees fleeing turmoil in Libya have been recovered off the Tunisian coast after the vessels carrying them illegally to Europe got into difficulty, a U.N. official said Friday.

"Up to now 150 bodies of refugees have been found off the shores of Kerkennah," Carole Laleve, an official of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told Reuters, referring to a Tunisian island. "Search operations are continuing."

The boats encountered problems Tuesday about 20 km (12 miles) off Kerkennah as they headed for Italy, the Tunisian TAP state news agency has reported.

Tunisian coastguards and military rescued 570 people, but many others went into the water when a stampede to get off the small fishing boats -- combined with the effect of rough seas -- capsized some of the vessels, a Tunisian official said.

In all about 250 people were reported Thursday as missing from the vessels.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; editing by Myra MacDonald)