The Tunisian authorities said that four pregnant women were among the 20 migrants whose bodies were found off the coast of Tunisia after the smuggling boat sank, while efforts to search for 13 others, believed to be missing, continued.
Nineteen migrants were among the 20 migrants who died in the drowning of women, according to Murad al-Turki, spokesman for the Sfax District Court in central Tunisia.
Coast Guard officials and local fishermen recovered the bodies, took them ashore, and transported them in white body bags to a nearby hospital where the bodies were autopsied.
Turki said that four migrants were rescued: one remained under medical supervision on Friday and another escaped from the hospital.
Al-Turki said the boat, which was overcrowded and in poor condition, was carrying 37 people – three Tunisians and one from sub-Saharan Africa. Coast Guard boats and marine divers are searching for the 13 missing, but they have not found new bodies or survivors, amid strong winds and high waves in the area.
The Tunisian authorities say they have intercepted several boats to smuggle migrants recently, but the number of attempts is increasing, especially between the Sfax region and the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Migrant smuggling boats often depart from the coast of Tunisia and neighboring Libya carrying people from all over Africa, including a growing number of Tunisians fleeing long-standing economic hardship in their country.