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Dramatic saves after packed migrant boat overturns in Med

Published:Thursday | August 6, 2015 | 9:41 AM


Hundreds of migrants who survived the capsizing of a smugglers' fishing boat were being brought to Italy yesterday, including a Palestinian man who saved his wife by giving her his life jacket then diving below the surface to grab their toddler daughter as she disappeared.

Military vessels and aircraft from a multi-nation operation were searching waters off Libya a day after the 20-meter (66-foot) long boat overturned as rescuers were approaching. With seas warm and calm, rescuers expressed hopes others might be alive.

In the first hours after the accident in late morning on Wednesday, 367 survivors were rescued and 25 bodies recovered. Military officials from Ireland, whose navy vessel the Le Niamh was among the vessels on the scene, said they were given an initial estimate of 600 migrants aboard the smugglers' boat. If that estimate holds, as many as 200 migrants might have drowned.

At least 367 survivors were taken aboard the Le Niamh, which was approaching the dock at Palermo, Sicily, by late afternoon.

The Italian navy, which had two ships in the rescue operation, said three survivors were flown by helicopter for medical treatment aboard the Doctors Without Borders ship Dignity1. One was a man with a fractured leg; the other was a mother, with a 1-year-old son who needed dialysis.

Three other injured survivors were flown out by another navy helicopter to a hospital on the tiny Italian island, Lampedusa, south of Sicily.