Egypt on Monday launched search and rescue operations with the help of Libyan coastal authorities after dozens of people were feared drowned when their boat capsized, officials said.
Three bodies were recovered and five people plucked alive from the Mediterranean near the maritime border between the two countries, Egyptian security officials said, adding that Libya had alerted Egypt of the disaster.
The search for survivors was continuing in the Burdi area, the officials in Cairo said.
In Libya, the state news agency Lana reported that the boat was carrying around 40 illegal migrants and capsized off Libya’s east coast near the border with Egypt, with only one passenger surviving the tragedy.
“All the migrants who were on board died, except for one person who survived and was able to alert local authorities and inform them of the tragedy,” Lana said, quoting a local official.
It was not immediately clear who the passengers of the boat were but they are widely believed to be asylum seekers trying to get to Europe in search of jobs and a better life.
Lana did not give the nationalities of the passengers but said the boat sunk some three kilometres (almost two miles) off the Libya coast.
In April last year, scores of people went missing at sea after a tiny boat carrying more than 200 African migrants fleeing unrest-hit Libya capsized in the night in three-metre-high waves.
Libya has been traditionally a launchpad for African refugees and migrants seeking to make an illegal run across the sea to Europe, with many landing in Italy.
Migrants and refugees often travel in rickety and overcrowded wooden fishing boats and there have been several accidents at sea.