Sat | May 25, 2019

Smuggling boat sinks in Mediterranean, 64 feared dead

Published:Tuesday | January 9, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Migrants being rescued from dinghies in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya as they try to cross to Italy.


As many as 64 African migrants, including a mother whose surviving three-year-old child desperately clung to her as she drowned, are feared dead after a traffickers' overcrowded rubber dinghy from Libya started sinking in the Mediterranean Sea, officials said yesterday.

The Italian coastguard rescued 86 people from the boat hours after it started sinking Saturday morning, after it took on water and started deflating, a UN migration agency official said.

Specially trained rescue divers leapt into the water to pull dozens to safety, including those who managed to stay aboard the half-submerged dinghy, as well as others already flailing in nearby cold waters.

Eight bodies were recovered on Saturday. Officials at the time said the corpses were all women, but UN migration officials who met the rescue ship when it arrived yesterday in Catania, Sicily, said two of the eight dead were adult men.

Since trafficking dinghies are often crammed with far more than 100 migrants, fears quickly arose Saturday that dozens more could be missing in the sinking. An Italian coastguard search that went through the night didn't find any more survivors or corpses.

Flavio Di Giacomo of the International Organization for Migration said in a tweet yesterday that survivors interviewed by the agency in Catania said 150 people had been aboard the dinghy when it set out from a Libyan beach east of Tripoli.

"Sixty-four migrants lost their lives in the shipwreck (which) occurred last Saturday," Di Giacomo said, adding that "probably 56 missing migrants" perished at sea.