At least 31 migrants died and 200 were rescued after they were set on by sharks during a perilous crossing from Africa to Italy, Libya’s navy has said.
Some 18 women and 3 children were among the dead, while 40 people were still missing.
When Libyan coastguard boats arrived at the scene, they spotted large blue sharks swimming around the boat.
‘When we arrived in the area, off the town of Garabulli, [one] dinghy was semi-submerged and still had 44 people clinging on to it, whom we saved,’ Libyan patrol boat commander Nasser al-Ghammoudi said.
‘There were lots of bodies all around and we saw there were four or five sharks swimming among them, large blue sharks, a very aggressive species.
‘When we brought the bodies on board we noticed that some of them had been bitten, so it’s possible that among the missing some may have been eaten.’
The coast guard conducted two rescue operations off the city of Garabulli, 40 miles east of Tripoli, Libya’s navy said.
Those rescued were brought to a naval base in Tripoli where they were given water, food and medical care.
Spokesman Colonel Abu Ajila Abdelbarri added that patrols had found 31 bodies and 60 survivors from one boat, while all 140 passengers had survived in the second boat.
Migrants from Somalia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Nigeria and four from Pakistan were among those rescued on Saturday.