Bodies of 13 women found after migrant boat sinks in Mediterranean
Many passengers including children still missing say Italian coast guards
Woman disembarks from the coast guard boat in Lampedusa, Italy, October 7th. Photograph: Epa/Pasquale Claudio Montana
Italian coast guards recovered the bodies of 13 women who died after a crowded migrant boat capsized in bad weather as rescue craft approached it off the coast of Lampedusa, local authorities said on Monday.
The coast guard said 13 men and nine women survived the sinking of the boat, which was carrying more than 50 people when the disaster struck. Many of the migrants are still not accounted for, including a number of children.
“The boat was in no condition to make the crossing,” said Italian magistrate Salvatore Vella, who is investigating the disaster. “It is strange they put to sea in such bad weather.”
Mr Vella said most of the passengers came from Tunisia or sub-Saharan Africa. None of them had life jackets.
The boat appeared to have started its voyage in Libya and stopped in neighbouring Tunisia, he added, before heading north towards Lampedusa.
“Most of the survivors . . . are only alive thanks to the courage of the men of the coast guard and the police,” he said.
A coast guard and a police boat spotted the listing migrant boat just after midnight about six nautical miles from the coast of Lampedusa, having picked up a call for help late on Sunday.
“In order to proceed with the transfer operation, the naval units approached the small boat, but the adverse weather conditions and the sudden movement of migrants caused the vessel to overturn,” the coast guard said in a statement.
Coffins were lined up on the quay of the small port of Lampedusa as a coastguard ship entered harbour on Monday, bringing the bodies to shore.
Charlie Yaxley, a spokesperson for the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, said more than 1,000 people had died in the Mediterranean so far this year, most trying to cross from Libya to Europe.
“This highlights once again that urgent action is needed to address the situation in the Mediterranean,” he said.
In a separate rescue operation, the Spanish charity ship Open Arms said it saved 44 people from another boat overnight, including a newborn child, in seas north of Libya. Malta has said it will let this group disembark on Tuesday.
The Italian interior ministry says 7,939 migrants have reached Italy by boat so far this year, down 63 per cent on the same period in 2018 and 93 per cent on 2017 levels. – Reuters