Tunis — Secretary of State for Immigration and Tunisian Expatriates Houcine Jaziri, presently in Palermo, said that the search for the missing Tunisian nationals off the island of Lampedusa, after the sinking of their boat, continues.
In a telephone conversation, he said that hope to find survivors, five days after the shipwreck, is small.
Mr. Jaziri pointed out that, as soon as informed, the authorities dispatched a representative from Tunisia's embassy in Palermo to supervise the rescue operations and lend support to the rescued.
The Italian coast guards rescued 56 people and pulled two bodies from the sea among the 79 missing persons.
Coming from the different regions, the passengers on board of the rudimentary boat, including women and children, left Sidi Mansour, Sfax, for the island of Lampedusa.
The Secretary of State said he would visit the rescued persons presently housed in hosting centres.
Tunisia is ready to make a plane available to those people wishing to return home, he said, describing what had happened as "a disaster."
In turn, the official spokesman for the National Coast Guard Tarek Omrani said that as soon as his office was informed, a patrol attempted to prevent the boat passengers from sailing, but in vain. These latter carried on their crossing, ignoring cautioning against the bad weather conditions.
Mr. Omrani explained that the Tunisian coast guard patrol got in touch with the Italian coast guards who, in turn, received an emergency call from the sinking boat and managed to save 56 persons and pull two bodies from the sea, while 79 other persons were reported missing.