Fri | Apr 28, 2017

Save the Children: Dozens feared dead in migrant tragedy

Published:Wednesday | May 6, 2015 | 5:00 AM
A migrant carries a baby as they disembark from the Italian Navy vessel 'Bettica' in the harbour of Salerno, Italy, yesterday. About 700 migrants, including children, were rescued in the Sicilian Strait while they were trying to cross.

ROME (AP):

The Save the Children aid group reported another Mediterranean migrant tragedy yesterday, with survivors saying "dozens" of their fellow passengers fell out of their rubber boat and likely drowned as a rescue vessel neared.

Save the Children's Giovanna di Benedetto said from Catania, Sicily, that the exact toll wasn't known. But she said that survivors, in their first interviews with aid officials once they reached shore, reported that many people fell into the sea and couldn't swim.

The incident is believed to have occurred on Sunday in the sea between Libya and Sicily when a commercial vessel, the Zeran, approached to rescue the migrant boat. The Zeran arrived in Catania yesterday and the survivors disembarked.

The weekend saw a dramatic increase in rescues as smugglers in Libya took advantage of calm seas and warm weather to send thousands of would-be refugees out into the Mediterranean in overloaded rubber boats and fishing vessels. The Coast Guard reported rescuing nearly 7,000 in the three days to Sunday.

The deaths, if confirmed, come on top of the estimated 800 migrants who drowned last month when their boat capsized off Libya with hundreds of passengers locked in the hold by smugglers. A few days earlier, a further 400 people were feared drowned in another capsizing.

After the deaths, the European Union held an emergency summit and agreed to contribute more boats and patrol aircraft to Mediterranean rescue efforts.