Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hundreds missing after migrant boat sinks near Italian island, 50 rescued


More than 250 people are feared to have drowned after a migrant boat sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa on Wednesday morning, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said. Others have been rescued.

The incident happened in the early hours of Wednesday after a vessel, laden beyond its capacity, sank about 40 miles (64 kilometers) off Lampedusa. It had earlier left the Libyan coast with migrants and asylum seekers from Somalia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Chad and Sudan. 

IOM officers were at the scene on Wednesday afternoon to provide first aid and counselling to those who survived the disaster. They said their boat sank during rough seas, and some media reports indicated the boat had capsized. 

IOM officials reported that the boat was carrying more than 300 people, including at least 40 women and 5 young children. Of them, 47 people were rescued by the Italian Coast Guard while 3 others were saved by an Italian fishing boat. 

Several survivors told IOM officers that the boat was already sinking when rescuers arrived but that they managed to swim towards an approaching Coast Guard ship. Others drowned because they either couldn't swim or were dragged down by desperate fellow passengers, IOM said. 

"The survivors are all in a state of shock," said IOM Legal Expert Simona Moscarelli. "One man told me he had lost his one year old son. One of the two surviving women told me how she had lost her husband." 

The surviving migrants were later transferred to Loran base, a facility where the Italian authorities are sheltering migrants coming from Libya, in order not to mix them with the migrants arriving from Tunisia. 

Since the beginning of February, the island of Lampedusa has been overwhelmed by the arrival of more than 20,000 migrants. The majority of them are Tunisian coming from the Tunisian port of Zarzis, Djerba and Sfax. Over the past ten days, more than 2,000 mostly African migrants and asylum seekers have landed on the island after having sailed from the Libyan coast.

Click link for location of Lampedusa in Italy:

Courtesy --BNO News

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