(CNN)More than 100 migrants died when their boat sank off the Libyan coast at the beginning of September, and the survivors are being detained in that country, according to the French charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
Dozens of migrants die off Libyan coast
MSF said two rubber boats left Libya early on September 1, carrying hundreds of people from countries including Sudan, Mali, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Libya, Algeria and Egypt. But one of the boats with 165 adults and 20 children on board deflated and sank, leading to dozens of deaths, one eyewitness told MSF.
The Libyan Coast Guard took 276 survivors to the port city of Khoms and only two bodies were reportedly recovered. MSF provided urgent medical assistance after their disembarkation.
"We called the Italian coast guard and sent our coordinates, asking for assistance as people started to fall in the water," one survivor said.
"We were told they would send someone. But the boat started sinking. We couldn't swim and only a few people had life jackets. Those among us who could hold on to the boat's floating hood stayed alive. [European] rescuers came later by air and threw life rafts but everybody was in the water; the boat had already sunk."
Libyan rescuers eventually arrived, but only saved 55 people.
An MSF team treated some survivors for chemical burns caused by contact with spilled engine fuel.
The survivors were transferred to a detention center in the north African nation where MSF says it has provided further care but is concerned about their safety. Among the detained are pregnant women, children and infants, and people with serious medical conditions and chemical burns.
"How can they recover when locked inside cells, in very poor hygiene conditions and sleeping on blankets or mattresses placed on the floor that cause incredible pain for those suffering from severe burns?" said Jai Defrancis, an MSF nurse working in the Libyan coastal city of Misrata.
"Some of them cannot even sit or walk. We have started to see patients with severe chest infections like pneumonia, caused by being in the water for such a long time."