Aid groups cut death toll from migrant shipwreck off Libya

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 31, 2017 10:25 AM

GENEVA (Reuters) - Five migrants are believed to have died when a rubber boat sank off the coast of Libya on Tuesday, aid groups said on Friday, adding that reports earlier this week that many more had been killed were wrong.

Probably still in shock after he was taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa, a 16-year-old Gambian boy told humanitarian workers on Wednesday he was the only survivor of the wreck, Cecile Pouilly, a spokeswoman for the UNHCR, told reporters.

When 140 others disembarked at a different port on Thursday, several identified the boy as having been on the same boat.

"So we have pretty good information that this tragedy didn't occur as was initially reported," said Joel Millman, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration.

"We try to be as conservative as possible and only report what we know. This was not one of those cases."

Some 650 migrants are estimated to have died trying to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean so far this year, and arrivals in Italy are up about 30 percent from the same period last year.

(Reporting by Stephanie Ullmer-Nebehay; writing by Steve Scherer; editing by Andrew Roche)