In the fifth day following the capsizing of a boat off the coast of Rashid in Beheira governorate, dead bodies are still being lifted out of the water.
The death toll has increased to 168, according to Beheira governorate spokesperson Wahdan El Sayad. The Egyptian Navy has intervened and enlisted divers to search for drowned bodies in the sea, which will likely push the death toll higher.
An accurate picture of how many illegal immigrants the boat was carrying when it capsized remains vague. State-run newspaper Al-Ahram asserted on Sunday that the Italy-boat was carrying 400 illegal migrants when it capsized on Wednesday. Previous media reports stated that the boat was carrying anywhere between 300 to 600 people of various nationalities.
Al-Ahram’s reports regarding the incident contradicts official statements on the death toll, as the newspaper reported on Sunday that the bodies lifted from the sea reached 172, after navy forces recovered another four bodies.
In a late response to the incident, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi held a meeting on Saturday morning with security officials to review recent updates on the sinking incident. During the meeting, Al-Sisi expressed his condolences to the victims’ families and promised that those responsible for the incident would be punished.
“President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi ordered to intensify security forces’ presence at the borders to prevent illegal migration, as well as to increase marketing campaigns to finance projects for the youth demographic,” the statement read.
An investigation that was launched following the incident indicated that the boat was owned by an Egyptian citizen from Damietta governorate who in turn sold the boat to a group of smugglers, according to Al-Ahram.
The prosecution ordered that a woman and her son be detained for being involved in the transportation of 100 people from Rashid to the boat.
The governor of Beheira governorate said that 71 dead bodies had been identified by their relatives and burial permission was granted to them, while 94 others have yet to be claimed and were transferred to hospitals in Beheira, Alexandria, and Kafr El-Sheikh governorates.
Dozens protested in front of the Border Guards headquarters in Rashid, demanding that authorities continue the rescue operations in order to retrieve all of the victims from the sea, Al-Ahram reported Sunday.
The protest was launched after several families searched for their relatives in the designated hospitals, hoping to find their sons, but they failed.
The armed forces previously stated that they had rescued 164 people, including 117 Egyptians from the capsized boat.