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As Many as 200 Migrants Feared Dead After Boat Sinks Off Libyan Coast

The deaths came the same day as Austrian police confirmed three arrests following the discovery of 71 decomposed bodies in the back of a truck in Austria.
August 28, 2015, 2:55pm

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As many as 200 refugees and migrants may have been killed in the Mediterranean after a boat sank off the Libyan coast on Thursday evening.

A security official in the western town of Zuwara — who asked not to be named — told Reuters there had been 400 people on board the vessel. The passengers came from Pakistan, Syria, Morocco, Bangladesh, and countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Many of those who died may have been locked in the hold of the boat — usually reserved for Africans who can't afford the fee required to remain above deck.

The Libyan coast guard managed to rescue 201 people, the official said, adding that 147 of those had been taken to a detention facility in Sabratha, west of Tripoli.

This tragedy is just another in the mounting list of deaths occurring as migrants and refugees make desperate attempts to reach Europe — risking their lives along the way.

Related: Germany Is Set to Accept Asylum Applications From all Syrians Who Arrive There

On Friday, Austrian police also confirmed three arrests following the discovery of 71 decomposed bodies in the back of a truck in Austria.

The Krone newspaper reports that one of those arrested is believed to be the owner of the truck, while two were drivers. The three are believed to be part of a smuggling gang.

At least two of the men are from Bulgaria, while the third has papers identifying him as Hungarian, according said Hans Peter Doskozil, the chief of police of Burgenland province.

A Syrian travel document retrieved from the truck indicated that at least some of those who had perished in the vehicle were Syrians, fleeing the brutal civil war in their country.

Officials said they believed they had died as a result of suffocation, though investigations are ongoing.

The decomposed bodies were discovered early on Thursday morning in a vehicle parked near the town of Parndorf, on the side of the A4 — the main road to the Austrian capital of Vienna.

Responding to the discovery, Austria's Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner told reporters that it was a "dark day."

Related: The Decomposed Bodies of Up to 50 Migrants Have Been Found in a Truck in Austria

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd

Watch VICE News' documentary Migrant Prisons of Libya: Europe or Die: