Dozens Dead In New Migrant Tragedy Off Coast of Sicily

Map of where migrant boat sank off coast of Lampedusa

Map of where migrant boat sank off coast of Lampedusa

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PALERMO, Sicily - Dozens of people including women and children died on Friday when a boat carrying around 250 migrants capsized and spilled them into the sea between Sicily and Tunisia, the second such tragedy in a little over a week, the Italian coastguard said.

The Italian news agency ANSA reported that around 50 corpses had so far been sighted, including around 10 children.

At least 339 people drowned on October 3 when a boat carrying Eritrean and Somali migrants sank near the tiny southern Italian island of Lampedusa, southwest of Sicily.

"There are at least 200 people in the sea and our helicopters are picking them up," said a navy spokesman. Two navy ships were assisting and dozens of survivors were being taken to Lampedusa on one of the vessels.

A coastguard official said some survivors were also aboard a Maltese military vessel.

Maltese authorities were coordinating the rescue operation, which was in international waters but in a Maltese rescue zone, and a Maltese ship was on the scene, a spokesman for the island state's navy said.

The boat sank around 60 miles off Lampedusa and survivors were being taken there, he added. The boat was seen to be in difficulty by a Maltese military plane at around 1400 GMT, which dropped a life raft, the Maltese navy said in a statement.

Last week's disaster was one of the worst in a protracted migrant crisis in which tens of thousands of people have arrived in flimsy, overcrowded boats in southern Italy, and some vessels wrecked. Lampedusa, located midway between Sicily and Tunisia in North Africa, has borne the brunt.

According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, 32,000 have arrived in southern Italy and Malta this year alone, around two thirds of whom have filed requests for asylum.

Earlier on Friday at least 500 more migrants in at least three separate boats arrived or were rescued on the way to different areas of Sicily.

Most migrants come from sub-Saharan Africa, but this year many are fleeing the civil war in Syriaor political turmoil in Egypt and other parts of North Africa. Many are drawn by hopes of finding work in Europe and often do not stay in Italy.

By Wladimir Pantaleone - Fri Oct 11, 2013 3:17pm EDT

(Additional reporting by Antonella Cinelli, Chris Scicluna and Philip Pullella; writing by Gavin Jones; editing by Andrew Roche)

 

 
 

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