TUNIS, Tunisia — A migrant boat sank off Tunisia's port city of Sfax, leaving five people dead and seven others missing, officials said Tuesday. The dead included a child.
Sfax is the starting point for most attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Italy.
Twenty-three migrants were rescued out of 35 people on board, most of them Tunisians and a “small number of sub-Saharan nationals,” said Faouzi Masmoudi, a Sfax court spokesperson.
The boat sank on Monday shortly after leaving from the Sfax area, Masmoudi said.
The Sfax court opened an investigation to determine the cause of the accident, which occurred two days after another migrant boat sank off Gabes, a port in southeastern Tunisia, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Sfax, killing a child and a 20-year-old man. Five other people remain missing.
A number of boats have capsized, shipwrecked or otherwise been in distress in recent days off the North African coast and near Italian shores. Tens of thousands of migrants have tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea this year hoping to reach Europe.
Migrants who set out in dozens of flimsy boats launched by smugglers on Tunisian shores have disembarked on three tiny Italian islands in a span of two days, officials said. Separately, a charity vessel carried out 15 rescue operations and the Italian coast guard on Sunday recovered a body off the western coast of Sicily from a shipwreck.
Last week, a merchant ship took aboard four survivors who were adrift in a smugglers’ engineless boat. They recounted how they had been tossed into the sea when towering waves knocked over their vessel and that 41 fellow passengers died.