Dreams of migrants on doomed boat end in tragedy
Rosetta (Egypt) (AFP)
Mutwali Mohamed watched helplessly as his wife and son slipped under the waves after the crowded migrant boat they boarded capsized off Egypt's coast on its voyage to Italy.
They were among 42 people confirmed dead in the disaster which unfolded on Wednesday. Dozens more are feared drowned.
Mohamed, a 28-year-old Egyptian welder, managed to stay afloat until a rescue boat found him.
He was arrested for trying to leave the country illegally and now lies handcuffed to a hospital bed in the Mediterranean port city of Rosetta, weeping for his lost family.
"I risked my life and the lives of my son and wife so they could have a nice life."
Mohamed said the rising cost of living had prompted him to leave behind his homeland and head for Italy, where he would have looked for a "job doing anything".
He had agreed with a trafficker to pay an intermediary 50,000 pounds ($5,600) when he reached Italy.
"I was the only one who survived. I wish I hadn't survived."
-'Like the apocalypse' -
Next to him, also handcuffed to a bed, a weeping Badr Abdel Hafiz said about 400 people had been on board the boat.
"I was with my wife and three children. They all died," the 28-year-old said.
Ahmed Mohamed, 27, recounted how passengers had tried to save themselves when the vessel began to sink.
"It was like the apocalypse. Everyone tried to get out alive. I swam for 10 kilometres," he said.
About 150 survivors were detained in a police station in Rosetta, most of them young men.
There were Egyptians, Sudanese and Syrians. Dozens were sprawled out in the hallways, where police offered them water and clothes.
Mohamed Ahmed, a 17-year-old student, had borrowed 20,000 pounds to pay for passage on the doomed boat.
He said he was among around 100 people in a hold used to store fish when the vessel capsized.
"Me and my friend were the only ones who escaped."
"Everything has become more expensive here. I couldn't gather the money to marry. I thought I would travel to Italy to start a new life," he said.
Others, like Sumuya from Sudan, wanted to join family who had already made the trip. Her husband is in Europe.
"There were many in the boat's hold who died. The boat keeled over and they were locked in. By God, at least 100 people," she said.
On a beach near Rosetta on Thursday, a small crowd gathered with some reading verses from the Koran and others desperately seeking information on relatives who may have been on board.
A municipal official in Rosetta told AFP that Wednesday's victims included one child, 10 women and 31 young men.
More than 10,000 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014, according to the United Nations.
Asylum-seekers have been seeking other ways to reach Europe since March, when Balkan countries closed the popular overland route and the EU agreed a deal with Turkey to halt departures.
The head of EU border agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, said in June that Egypt was becoming a "departure country" for migrants.
More than 300,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year from various points of departure, the UN said this week.
© 2016 AFP