ATHENS — The bodies of no less than 104 asylum seekers have washed up a shoreline in the western Libyan town of Zwara, the navy said, as hundreds more were believed to be missing off the coast of Greece after a boat capsized.
“The number of bodies retrieved Thursday evening was 104, but the toll is expected to rise since an average boat carries 115 to 125 passengers,” Libyan navy spokesman Colonel Ayoub Qassem said.
People smugglers have exploited the chaos gripping Libya since the 2011 uprising that overthrew dictator Moamar Gaddafi to traffic migrants and refugees across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
It is a lucrative business for the smugglers, who cram asylum seekers into boats that are small and unsafe for the perilous journey to Italy just 300 kilometres from Libya’s shores.
Thousands of asylum seekers try each year to make the crossing, but many drown when their boats founder.
Colonel Qassem said that asylum seeker boats leaving from western Libya usually set off from the port cities of Sabratha and Zwara, with passengers who are mostly African or Arabs from Morocco.
The identities of the bodies found on Thursday were not yet known.
Some 204,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe since January, the United Nations refugee agency said on Tuesday.
More than 2,500 people have died trying to make the crossing this year — the vast majority of them between Libya and Italy — as Europe battles its worst migration crisis since World War II.
Meanwhile, at least nine people have died and a desperate effort was underway on Friday to find hundreds more believed missing after an asylum seeker boat capsized off the Greek island of Crete, the coastguard said.
Coastguard spokesman Nikos Lagadianos said at least 340 people had been rescued, and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said the vessel was “believed to have left Africa with at least 700 migrants on board”.
It was the second asylum seeker vessel found in that area of the southern Aegean Sea since last week, indicating that people smugglers may be forging a new route to avoid NATO ships.
A coastguard spokeswoman said a major rescue operation was underway, including four ships that were passing through the area, in clear but windy conditions about 75 nautical miles south of Crete.
“The number of people in distress could be counted in the hundreds,” she said.
It was not immediately clear where exactly the boat had left from or where it was headed, or the nationalities of those on board.
The coastguard spokeswoman said a passing ship spotted the sinking vessel off Crete, adding that the coastguard then rushed two patrol boats, a plane and a helicopter to the scene.
About half of the 25-metre-long boat was completely underwater, the spokeswoman said.
The deaths are the first in Greek waters since April, as a controversial March deal between the EU and Turkey, designed to halt the flow of asylum seekers using the popular Aegean route, has led to a sharp drop in traffic.
Bir Hospital to get new surgery building
KATHMANDU— The oldest hospital of the country, Bir Hospital, is in the process of getting a separate well-equipped building for surgery within the next two years.
The proposed nine-storey building will have 15 operation theaters.
The new building will have a post-operative ward; a 40-bed surgical ward; an Intensive Care Union (ICU); and a library as well. The new infrastructure will also have the facilities friendly to the senior citizens, disabled and the visitors, the National Academy of Medical Sciences (NAMS) says.
It is estimated to cost Rs 3.85 billion to complete the construction in two years. It is being constructed in an area of the old building of the NAMS nursing college which collapsed in the 2015 April earthquake. The building construction was inaugurated by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on March 9.
The hospital that had started its services in 1947 BS with 15 beds has now 450 beds. The NAMS operates Nursing, MBBS, MD classes and training as well.
The post of NAMS Chancellor has been lying vacant since the past five months. As shared by an employee, the delay in appointing the chancellor has caused inconveniences to the operation of hospital regular activities.
Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Population, Dr Sushilnath Pyakurel, said the recommendations have been already made before the minister to make appointments in the posts lying vacant in various health academies.
Similarly, infrastructures are being developed to upgrade the hospital by adding extra services including a helipad service for the first time from the government level.
The hospital has started its service from its branch at Duwakot of Bhaktapur from October 10 as part of its service expansion in line with the policy of the Ministry of Health.
The Duwakot branch provides OPD and surgery at present. OPD service starts from 9 am to 5 pm. The NAMS has permitted the construction of well equipped physical infrastructure for the hospital branch to provide international standard service, said the Hospital’s Director Prof Dr Bhupendra Basnet.
The Ministry of Health has allocated Rs 300 million as per the master plan of the NAMS and provided approximately 570 ropanis of land for the construction of physical infrastructures for the hospital branch.
“Necessary human resources including a medical officer, nurses and assistant health workers have been managed for the hospital branch. Medical equipment and other workforce that includes specialist doctors will also be managed as per need,” said Basnet.Follow @gorkhapost