CAIRO, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Over 160 bodies were recovered after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants sank eight miles off the Egyptian coast, authorities said.
The boat was carrying between 450 and 600 Egyptian, Syrian, Sudanese, Eritrean, and Somali migrants when it sank off the coast near Rosetta, east of Alexandria.
At least 163 people have been rescued, but hundreds more are unaccounted for and believed to have drowned. Police said the majority of the casualties so far were Egyptian men in their late teens and early to mid-20s.
Mounting economic issues in the area are driving the men to cross the Mediterranean in search of work in Europe.
"That's why this is a disaster," said police spokesman Tarek Attiya. "They are just kids who wanted to work."
Smugglers who arranged the passage from Egypt to Europe forced passengers who requested life jackets to pay extra, survivors said. Egyptian authorities have arrested four men involved with the smuggling operation on charges of involuntary manslaughter and human trafficking.