Scores missing after Libya refugee boat capsizes

Thursday, 07 April 2011 09:46 Ljubomir Milasi

 Scores of people were missing at sea on Wednesday after a tiny boat carrying more than 200 African migrants fleeing Libya capsized in the night in three-metre-high waves, officials said.

Coast guard spokesman Vittorio Alessandro told AFP from the southern Italian island of Lampedusa that 50 survivors had been rescued and a helicopter crew aiding the high-seas rescue operation had spotted some 20 bodies near the boat.

"We are still hoping. Our boats and helicopters have thrown all sorts of lifejackets and lifeboats to allow people to hold on," Alessandro said.

Around 130 people who were on the 13-metre (42-foot) boat are believed to be missing, while a fishing boat in the area rescued three more survivors.

The island state of Malta said it was helping to co-ordinate rescue efforts.

Helicopter pilots quoted by Italian news agency ANSA said they had seen "dozens" of corpses in the area including those of small children.

"We hoped one of them would raise their arm. But no-one did," one said.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told reporters he would be visiting the island on Saturday and sent his condolences to victims' relatives.

"The government and I are personally following the tragedy with sorrow and emotion," he said. "We are talking about desperate people, who had faced the dangers of the crossing in order to reach our coasts and better their lives."

Shaken-looking survivors wrapped in thermal blankets were helped off a coast guard boat on Lampedusa, television images showed. Some, including a heavily pregnant woman, were immediately taken to hospital in ambulances.

"The bad weather started at about six pm yesterday... Our boat broke apart. We fell into the water. It was hell. There was water in my mouth but I managed to stay afloat," ANSA quoted a 29-year-old Cameroonian, Peter Ugo, as saying.

Michele Prosperi from the charity Save the Children who has been helping the thousands of migrants arriving on the island, said: "They were in very, very, very difficult conditions. They were all suffering from hypothermia."

Prosperi said there was one unaccompanied minor and they were all being put up in a former US base on Lampedusa, which is nearer North Africa than mainland Italy and is a gateway for illegal immigration into Europe.

The International Organisation for Migration, based in Geneva, said it estimated some 300 people were on the boat which capsized and sank in the early hours of the morning and that more than 250 were therefore missing.

"The survivors are all in a state of shock. One man told me he had lost his one-year-old son. One of the two surviving women told me how she had lost her husband," said the IOM's Simona Moscarelli, who is in Lampedusa.

The coast guard said in a statement that the boat had departed two days ago from the town of Zuwarah in western Libya near the border with Tunisia. The statement said the people on the boat were mostly Eritreans and Somalis.

Hundreds of African refugees from Libya -- many of them migrant workers stranded after the start of an uprising against Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi and the beginnings of a civil war -- have landed in Italy in recent days.

Angelina Jolie, Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations' Refugee Agency (UNHCR), who had just returned from a humanitarian mission in Tunisia, said she was "greatly saddened."

"We have urgently to find solutions to guarantee a safe corridor to civilians fleeing the fighting in Libya," she said, according to a UNHCR statement that quoted her in Italian translation.

More than 20,000 migrants fleeing continuing unrest in Tunisia have also arrived on Lampedusa in recent weeks, sparking a humanitarian emergency.

Migrants and refugees often travel in rickety and overcrowded wooden fishing boats and there have already been recently smaller accidents at sea.

The accident happened some 40 nautical miles (46 miles, 74 kilometres) south of Lampedusa in waters that are under the jurisdiction of Malta.

Because of the storm and the panic on board, "the boat capsized and the passengers were thrown into the sea," Alessandro said.

"The darkness and weather conditions made the search for the missing people difficult but it is still continuing," he said.
(Source: AFP)

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+3 #7 militant wediere 2011-04-08 13:51
how can and say their eritrean website? over 335 innocent souls perish yet not a single news? don't the webmaster have any shame? how can you not report the death of innocent people?

as for and eritv, enough have beeen said about those hasewti website.
-3 #6 annino 2011-04-08 10:21
wen are we gonna start talking some nice words??? it's really disappointing to read all this insults and unnecessary n unworthy 'ZELEFAS'!!! - what ever happens and who reports what, this is the time of mourning and lets comfort our families with some heart-warming subtle words. Sick and tired of reading every single KIZAREB YIKIEL'YE BAHALAY Eritrean's stupid utterance. I'm sure the world laughs at us every time they read our little minds like this.

To all the families who has had this unfortunate tragedy on their door-steps, may GOD give you his ever green grace and comfort you unreservedly. And to all my Eritrea brothers and sisters who have been victims of this unfortunate disaster, MENGTI SEMAY YEWRISKUM - AMEN!!
+3 #5 ftHi 2011-04-08 03:58
Eritrea hit by two tragedies in a week. This is Eritrea after twenty years of the so called "independence", very tragic.

April 6, 2011 (BBC) departed from Zuwara
... Italian coast guards rescued 48 and three were saved by a fishing boat, but 20 deaths were confirmed and at least 130 people are unaccounted for. ..
Coast guards said the boat had been carrying around 200 people but the International Organization of Migration (IOM) put the figure at 300.

Mar 22 -25, 2011, AFP, departed from Tripoli
More than 400 African migrants seeking to travel to Italy on two vessels are feared drowned after going missing days ago in the Mediterranean, a UN official has said.
But two boats that reportedly set out from Libya on 22 and 25 March, one carrying 335 Eritreans and the other 68 Eritreans and Ethiopians, have disappeared.
+4 #4 sam a 2011-04-08 03:44
in case you've missed it here is what someone has to say at Dehai DMB “Over 330 ppl have been reported dead at the sea trying to flee Libya. Most of these people are none other than our own Eritrean brothers and sisters. It is inexcusable that Dehai didn't find this to be news worthy. I am sure if they were Ethiopians, dehai would have been all over it to report it. Amazing!!!”
+11 #3 Hade Adam 2011-04-07 17:40
What country forgets to honor and grief its people, we are speaking of more than 300 lost souls vanished, and yet not a single word of mentioning of this tragedy. What shamefully country mentions trivial bulletins from Pakistan and Somalia and aloud itself as peoples party? While its people are sold and raped in masses while the so called government do absolutely nothing defend its “so called” main asset.
+8 #2 kiweghyou 2011-04-07 16:46
ገሪሙኒ ናይ ተቃወምቲ ብሃልቲ ወሳይታት ዓዋተ ምስከረም ኣስቕጥ እዚ ዘሕዝን ህልቀት መንእስያት ዘይምቅላሐን ዘይምዝታይን።ኣየ ሳልሕ ጋዲ ወረኛ ናይ ጁቡቲ ዓጂቡካ ኣየ መስከረም ናይ ኢትዮጵያ ዓጂቡካ ካብ ህግደፍ ንላዕሊ ህግደፍ ክትከዉን መርጽካ እንታይ ተረኽበ ገለ ዶ ካብ ወሪቂ ቢሻ ተሓናቒት ኣሲሩልካ ህግደፍ ርኢናልኩም ለኽበጥበጥኩም ኣብ ነብስኹም ዝተጠቕለልኩም መናፍቓን
+6 #1 Selamay 2011-04-07 14:50
Its sadding God confort the familes of victms.