ROME (AP):A ship carrying African migrants to Europe caught fire and capsized off the Italian island of Lampedusa yesterday, killing at least 94 people as it spilled hundreds of passengers into the sea, officials said. More than 150 people were rescued but some 200 others were still unaccounted-for.
It was one of the deadliest accidents in recent times during the notoriously perilous Mediterranean Sea crossing from Africa for migrants seeking a new life in the European Union.
"We need only caskets, certainly not ambulances," Pietro Bartolo, chief of health services on the island, told Radio 24. He gave the death toll of 94 but told Sky TG24 he expected that to rise as search operations continued.
"It's an immense tragedy," said Lampedusa Mayor Giusi Nicolini, adding that the dead included at least one child of about 3 and a pregnant woman.
Blue, white and black tarps covered the bodies at the port.
Coast guard ships, local fishing boats and helicopters from across the region were combing the waters trying to find survivors, said coast guard spokesman Marco Di Milla. The boat left from Tripoli with migrants from Eritrea, Ghana and Somalia, Di Milla said.