117 ‘drown in Med’ including pregnant woman and two month old child as migrant boat capsizes
- More than 100 migrants were feared dead last night after their dinghy capsized
- Survivors were flown by an Italian naval helicopter to the island of Lampedusa
- They said their dinghy took on water just hours after leaving Libya en route
More than 100 migrants including a pregnant woman and a two-month-old baby were feared dead last night after their flimsy inflatable rubber dinghy capsized in the Mediterranean.
According to three survivors who were rescued 40 miles off the Libyan coast, 120 migrants in total had set off from the village of Garabulli, near Tripoli, on Thursday night.
The survivors, who were flown by an Italian naval helicopter to the island of Lampedusa, 100 miles south-west of Malta, said their dinghy took on water just hours after leaving Libya en route to Italy.
International Organisation for Migration (IOM) spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo said last night: ‘They told us there were 120 when they left. After ten to 11 hours at sea (the boat) started sinking and people started drowning.
More than 100 migrants were feared dead last night after their flimsy inflatable rubber dinghy capsized in the Mediterranean
‘Ten women including a pregnant girl were aboard and two children, one of whom was only two months old.’
He added that a third of the migrants on board were Sudanese and the others came from West African countries.
An Italian military plane first spotted the sinking dinghy as it struggled in rough waters, and threw two safety rafts before having to retreat due to a lack of fuel.
A helicopter dispatched from a naval ship then rescued the three people, who were suffering from severe hypothermia and skin burns and were taken to hospital on Lampedusa.
‘During this operation at least three bodies were seen in the water who appeared to be dead,’ said Rear Admiral Fabio Agostini of the Italian navy.
The navy alerted Libyan authorities who coordinated rescue operations, ordering a merchant ship to rush to where the dinghy had sunk – although rescue efforts proved fruitless.
According to IOM figures, the number of migrants who arrived in Europe by sea in the first 16 days of 2019 totalled 4,216, almost all by sea, compared with 2,365 in the same period of 2018.
The UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, said that at least 170 people have died or have gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean this year. (Stock image)
The UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, said that at least 170 people have died or have gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean this year, including 53 people who died crossing the Alboran Sea in the Western Mediterranean.
Last year, 2,262 people lost their lives trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean, according to the UNHCR.
Despite the cold weather, migrants are continuing to arrive in Italy through the Mediterranean by boat. On Thursday night, a vessel carrying 57 Bangladeshis arrived on Lampedusa from Libya, said the IOM.
On Friday, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini wrote on Facebook: ‘As long as European ports will remain open… sea-traffickers will continue to do business and kill people.’
Since Italy’s populist government came to power in June, Salvini, leader of the anti-migrant Northern League party, has closed Italian ports to humanitarian vessels.
‘The tragedy of the Mediterranean cannot be allowed to continue,’ said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
He added: ‘We cannot turn a blind eye to the high numbers of people dying on Europe’s doorstep.
‘No effort should be spared, or prevented, from saving lives in distress at sea.’