239 immigrants missing after 2 boats capsize: UNHCR

Rome, Nov 3 (IANS) At least 239 immigrants were reported missing in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday after two vessels sank off the coast of Libya, the UNHCR said.

Survivors arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa said the vessels that sank were carrying at least 239 migrants, the majority of whom were thought to be from Guinea, West Africa, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) South Europe region Carlotta Sami wrote on Twitter.

According to the Italian media, two of the 27 survivors who arrived on the island said they were forced to board the boats despite adverse weather conditions in which the vessels would later sink.

The boats were launched from points near the coast of the Libyan city of Tripoli, Efe news reported.

On Wednesday, the Italian coastguard reported the rescue of 29 persons and the recovery of 12 bodies from another boat that capsized some 40 km off the north African coast.

Rescue services in Spain also reported having rescued 146 migrants from five separate boats that had reportedly set sail from North Africa.