400 migrants saved from wreck off Libya, 25 bodies found

World Today

Mediterranean Sea north of Libya

Some 400 migrants have been rescued and 25 bodies recovered after a fishing boat carrying an estimated 600 capsized on Wednesday in the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya, an Italian Coast Guard official said.

Cmdr. Filippo Marini said the rescue operation was still ongoing, involving seven ships. Survivors have indicated that between 400 and 600 people were on board the smugglers’ boat when it capsized, he added.

The Irish naval vessel Le Niamh was one of several ships requested by the Italian coast guard to speed to the rescue of the overturned boat shortly before noon, Irish Capt. Donal Gallagher told The Associated Press by phone. “An Italian (military) helicopter has dropped additional life rafts” into the sea, he added.

Also involved in the rescue were an Italian vessel and a boat operated by Doctors Without Borders. Non-governmental organizations often join in migrant sea rescue operations, which are coordinated by Italy’s coast guard and are now under the umbrella of a European Union task force known as Triton. The distressed vessel was reported to be 110 kilometers (about 75 miles) northwest of Tripoli, Libya’s capital.

Officials have yet to determine what caused the capsizing.

Before Wednesday’s capsizing, the International Organization for Migration said nearly 2,000 migrants are believed to have lost their lives at sea since the start of this year. But the exact toll isn’t known. In April, a smuggling boat crammed with an estimated 800 migrants overturned, also off Libya’s coast, where smugglers operate. Only 28 survivors, including two alleged smugglers, were found in that tragedy.

Fleeing war, persecution and poverty, the migrants travel overland for weeks or months from sub-Saharan Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia to reach Libya. There they set sail in flimsy motorized rubber dinghies or rickety old fishing boats. When the boats have problems, someone aboard contacts the coast guard by satellite phone requesting rescue. Other boats in distress are spotted by Triton air surveillance.

Most of the migrants hope to find asylum, relatives or jobs, mainly in northern Europe.

Report by Associated Press.

  • Lemmuel Odjay

    Reminiscent of Irish history when scores of hundreds of Irish fled starvation and bad governance in 17c to 18c period, in search of the better life in North America, Australia, New Zealand etc. Similar stories were told of voyages across the Atlantic under insanitary conditions aboard unsuitable ships that simply fell apart midstream disgorging their human cargo into the sea.

    In Africa, this willingness to risk all aboard coffin ships sailing to Europe is often as a result of wars caused by greedy politicians and inefficient or oppressive governments. An example is Nigeria, where billions of dollars have been wasted and great opportunities lost in the past. If African people fail to rise up as one and demand change from their rulers, the trend would continue unabated. Africans need to emphasize more on good governance, not religion or ethnicity. You can be close to God without being a religious bigot, while ethnic intolerance can only undermine true development. Give a little, take a little is a better way…