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Drowned Bodies Found on Libyan Beaches

FILE- In this Feb. 3, 2017 file photo, migrants and refugees wait to be helped by members of the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms, as they crowd aboard a rubber boat sailing out of control in the Mediterranean Sea about 21 miles north of Sabratha, Libya.

TRIPOLI - At least 57 bodies have been washed ashore after two migrant boats sank in the Mediterranean off different towns in western Libya, a coast guard officer and an aid worker said on Tuesday.

A Red Crescent aid worker in Sabratha in western Tripoli said they had recovered 46 bodies in the past six days from the beach and they were all "illegal migrants" from one boat.

Eleven bodies, including that of a child, were recovered off Qarabulli in eastern Tripoli, said coast guard officer Fathi al-Zayani. The migrants were from Pakistan, Syria, Tunisia, and Egypt, he said.

Pictures were posted online by the Sabratha Red Crescent agency showing bodies in black bags being placed at the back of pick-up trucks by the aid workers wearing face-masks and gloves.

The aid worker said more bodies were expected to be washed up in coming days.

One survivor, Bassam Mahmoud from Egypt, said there were about 80 passengers on one of the boats that set off for Europe at around 2 a.m. on Tuesday.

There was an argument as the boat was sinking but the man in charge refused to stop, he said.

"We kept fighting until someone caught up with us. The scene was horrific and some died (in the water) in front of me," he told Reuters.

The International Organization for Migration said this month 441 migrants and refugees drowned in early 2023 while attempting to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe, the most deaths in the past six years over a three-month period.

Italy has rescued 47 boats carrying around 1,600 migrants in the central Mediterranean sea in the last two days and brought them ashore to the island of Lampedusa.