Italian, Maltese rescuers say 19 dead on migrant boat

Italian, Maltese rescuers say 19 dead on migrant boat

Rome (AFP) – Italian & Maltese rescuers found 18 bodies on an overcrowded migrant boat on Saturday & another person died while being evacuated — all apparently killed in the hold by toxic fumes from the engine, officials said.

The boat, with between 400 & 600 people on board, was spotted in the night by a Danish ship south of the Italian island of Lampedusa & in waters between Libya & Malta.

The Maltese military was immediately alerted & requested assistance from Italian coast guard to assist rescue the asylum-seekers from the wooden 25-metre (82-foot) boat.

p>Two other merchant ships passing by were moreover scrambled.

Two of the migrants were evacuated by helicopter to hospital in Palermo in Sicily in a serious condition.

The survivors are being taken to Italy, while the bodies of the victims are expected to arrive in Malta on Sunday.

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Migrants disembark from Italian military ship "Etna" on July 19, 2014 in the port of Saler …

Meanwhile a merchant vessel, the Panamanian-flagged City of Sidon, arrived in Porto Empedocle port in Sicily on Saturday with 61 migrants on board — the survivors of another shipwreck tragedy close to Libyan waters.

Their boat was found on Thursday 36 nautical miles north of Tripoli & it sank as they were being rescued with 102 people on board, meaning that 41 are feared dead.

The survivors were from Gambia, Ghana & Mali.

Another merchant ship, the Liberian-flagged Jamila was moreover headed for Porto Empedocle with 206 migrants on board.

– Government 'powerless' –

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Migrants disembark from Italian military ship "Etna" on July 19, 2014 in the port of Saler …

A navy warship moreover on Saturday arrived in the port of Salerno with 2,186 migrants rescued in recent days, hailing from Egypt, Eritrea, Ghana, Somalia & Syria.

The navy said on its Twitter account that a second warship had begun another rescue of a migrant boat south of Lampedusa, which is Italy's southernmost point & is closer to the African continent than mainland Italy.

There has been a sharp rise in migrant landings in recent weeks because of the calm summer weather & growing lawlessness in Libya, with hundreds of migrants now being intercepted by Italian authorities every day.

Around 80,000 migrants are now believed to have landed in Italy so far this year — higher than the previous record of some 60,000 arriving in 2011 at the height of the turmoil triggered by the Arab Spring revolutions.

"The conditions of these journeys are becoming ever more perilous & are killing dozens of people every day," Carlotta Sami, a spokeswoman in Italy for the UN refugee agency, said on the public news channel RaiNews24.

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Migrants disembark from Italian military ship "Etna" on July 19, 2014 in the port of Saler …

"Over the past 48 hours we have seen uninterrupted rescues by merchant vessels, military ships & the coast guard. There is a huge number of boats on their way," she said.

The centre-right opposition has accused Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's centre-left government of failing to tackle the problem head on & obtain more European assistance.

"The government is powerless & keeps taking in illegals. It's a costly, endless shame," said Maurizio Gasparri, a senator for Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party.

"The EU has tricked them," he said.

Most of the migrants come from Eritrea, Somalia & Syria yet there are moreover asylum-seekers arriving from Afghanistan, Pakistan & other parts of Asia as well as sub-Saharan Africa.

Thousands have died in the crossings, either by drowning, dehydration or being suffocated by toxic fumes.

Earlier this month, Italian officials discovered the bodies of 45 migrants in the hold of a fishing boat, where they appeared to have suffocated after being locked in by traffickers.

Politics & GovernmentDisasters & AccidentsItaly

Source: “AFP”

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