Four pregnant women were among the 20 migrants whose bodies were found off the coast of Tunisia after their smuggled boat sank, Tunisian authorities said on Friday as the search for 13 more missing people continued.
Nineteen of the 20 migrants who died in the sinking on Thursday were women, according to Mourad Torki, the court spokesman for the Sfax region in central Tunisia.
The overloaded and in poor condition boat carried 37 people – three Tunisians and others from sub-Saharan Africa, Torki said.
Coast Guard officials and local fishermen retrieved the bodies, took them ashore, and carried them in white body bags to a nearby hospital for autopsies.
According to Torki, four migrants were rescued: one remained under medical supervision on Friday and another fled the hospital.
Coast Guard boats and naval divers searched for the 13 missing but found no new bodies or survivors on Friday amid high winds and high waves in the area.
The Tunisian authorities said they had recently intercepted several smuggled boats for migrants, but the number of attempts has increased, particularly between the Sfax region and the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Migrant smuggling boats frequently depart from the coast of Tunisia and neighboring Libya, carrying people from across Africa, including a growing number of Tunisians, fleeing ongoing economic difficulties in their country.