Press Esc to close
Friday 19 December 2014
News updated at 3:00 AM IST
Weather
Max: 26.2°C
Min : 19.5°C
In Bengaluru
Generally cloudy

300 feared dead in Italy migrant boat disaster

Lampedusa(Italy), Oct 3, 2013 (AFP):
Rescuers lift a body bag as they reach the port of Lampedusa, southern Italy, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013. At least 114 people died and scores more were missing late Thursday after a crowded fishing boat carrying African migrants from Tripoli caught fire, flipped over and sank, Italian officials said. Between 450 and 500 people were believed to be on board; health commissioner Antonio Candela said only 159 were rescued. AP Photo

Three hundred people were feared dead today after a boat with up to 500 African asylum seekers caught fire and sank off Italian shores in the worst recent refugee disaster in the Mediterranean.

"There are 93 victims, including three children and two pregnant women," said Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, who flew to the remote island of Lampedusa near where the tragedy happened.

Rescue divers later said they had identified at least 40 more bodies in and around the sunken wreck at a depth of around 40 metres, just a few hundred metres from the shore.

There were fears that the final toll could rise further to 300 or more people since rescuers said that only around 150 survivors had been plucked from the water over 12 hours after the disaster.

Rescuers and local fishermen were overcome with emotion as they spoke of chaotic early morning scenes in the water, with "a sea of heads" as desperate refugees waved their arms and screamed.

There were also poignant stories of survival like the young Eritrean woman thought dead and laid out with other corpses before medical personnel realised she was still breathing and revived her.

"Seeing the bodies of the children was a tragedy. We have run out of coffins," said Pietro Bartolo, a doctor. "In many years of work here, I have never seen anything like this," he said.

Lampedusa is one of the main entry points into the European Union for asylum-seekers crossing from north Africa or the eastern Mediterranean.

Migreurop, a network of immigration charities, estimates some 17,000 migrants have died at sea trying to reach Europe in the past 20 years, crossing on rickety fishing boats or dinghies.

Survivors said they were from Eritrea and Somalia and had left from the Libyan port of Misrata.

The migrants told rescuers they set fire to a blanket on the boat to attract the attention of coast guards after their vessel began taking on water and passing fishing boats ignored them.

The fire spread quickly, sowing panic on board which caused the boat to flip over and sink, as people jumped into the sea to save themselves.

Raffaele Colapinto, a local fisherman who was one the first on the scene, said: "We saw a sea of heads. We took as many as we could on board."


Go to Top

Photo Gallery
Children during a Christmas celebration at National Centre for Performing Arts ...

Children during a Christmas celebration at National Centre for Performing Arts ...

Hero Action Team during a cycling expedition at Kufri...

Hero Action Team during a cycling expedition at Kufri...

People warm themselves next to a fire on a winter morning...

People warm themselves next to a fire on a winter morning...

Indian Space Research Organisationís GSLV-Mark III rocket...

Indian Space Research Organisationís GSLV-Mark III rocket...

Micromax co-founder and YU founder Rahul Sharma at the launch of Cyanogen...

Micromax co-founder and YU founder Rahul Sharma at the launch of Cyanogen...

School students hold placards during a rally to protest against the Pakistan terror...

School students hold placards during a rally to protest against the Pakistan terror...

Boxer Vijender Singh and actress Esha Deol during a promotional...

Boxer Vijender Singh and actress Esha Deol during a promotional...

Cakes exhibit at Hotel Oberoi for coming Christmas...

Cakes exhibit at Hotel Oberoi for coming Christmas...

School children in Ahmedabad praay as they pay tributes...

School children in Ahmedabad praay as they pay tributes...

School children of Gurgaon pay tributes to the children killed in Pakistan...

School children of Gurgaon pay tributes to the children killed in Pakistan...

Copyright 2014, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bengaluru - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523