They were spotted Saturday morning, around 11 a.m. local time, by a patrol plane flying as part of operation Sophia: 100 migrants clinging to a half-submerged rubber boat that was slowly sinking, 40 miles off the coast of Gasr Garabulli, east of Tripoli.
Eighty-six people were rescued by the Italian Coast Guard ship Diciotti, and eight bodies were recovered, but the number of those still missing makes the final tally much worse. Two NGOs still patrolling the central Mediterranean also gave out information about the shipwreck—the German Sea Watch and the Spanish Proactiva Open Arms.
“At least 25 people died in the incident, exact numbers still unclear. Italian navy on the scene,” tweeted the German activists in the early afternoon. From the Spanish ship came other details: “Shipwreck off the coast of Libya, east of Tripoli. After hours in the water, 86 people were saved by the Italian Coast Guard, and dozens of people are missing who will be among those dead without a burial. They must be added to the count as the first drowned in the Mediterranean in 2018.” Early estimates gave the number of those crammed onto the boat at around 150 people, but the information was still patchy this weekend.