Home | Breaking News | Death in the Med: Five killed and 33 missing after ramshackle fishing boat carrying 600 migrants capsizes
More than 550 people required rescuing when the boat overturned off the coast of Libya b

Death in the Med: Five killed and 33 missing after ramshackle fishing boat carrying 600 migrants capsizes

WT24 Desk

FIVE people have died and more than 550 required rescuing after a large wooden fishing boat overcrowded with migrants capsized off the coast of Libya, The Sun reports.  Photographs show the blue fishing boat rocking violently before capsizing, sending migrants tumbling into the sea.

Some of then climbed onto the hull of the overturned vessel, while others swam for life boats or toward the navy ship. Navy swimmers were seen pulling migrants in lifebelts toward the Bettica, according to the pictures released by the Italian Navy.

Women wearing head scarves and children were among those rescued, but no details of the migrants’ nationalities have been given. The ramshackle fishing boat was already in serious trouble when the Italian navy patrol spotted it.

It was so overcrowded with terrified migrants it was listing dangerously to starboard. Some on deck had already lost their grip and plunged into the sea.  But as the navy frigate approached to hand out life jackets the panicking migrants rushed to the port side towards their saviours — and the boat suddenly lurched the other way.

Dozens were flung into the water as others tried to cling to the deck as it capsized. At least five drowned. Several rubber motor boats were used in the rescue operations, and the navy frigate Bergamini deployed a helicopter.

The rescuers managed to save 526 of those who had been crowded on top and below decks. But it is feared the death toll will rise. There could have been 600 on board in total, meaning 33 were missing, feared drowned last night.

The tragedy came as it was revealed more than 6,000 migrants have been rescued from flimsy boats in the Med in just 48 hours this week, due to warm weather and calm seas.

5,600 migrants were rescued on Monday and Tuesday, and officials fear numbers will increase as conditions continue to improve. In the past two years, more than 320,000 boat migrants have arrived on Italian shores and an estimated 7,000 died in the Mediterranean as they sought to reach Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Coastguards said it marked the beginning of another “summer surge” of migrants trying to reach Europe from North Africa. There have been 1,370 migrants killed making the crossing this year so far. In 2015, there were 3,771 deaths — the highest on record.

It is feared the sea route from Libya to Italy will see an unprecedented number of attempted crossings this summer after the closure of the migration route from Turkey to Greece.

The tragedy came as it was revealed more than 6,000 migrants have been rescued from flimsy boats in the Med in just 48 hours this week, due to warm weather and calm seas. 5,600 migrants were rescued on Monday and Tuesday, and officials fear numbers will increase as conditions continue to improve.

In the past two years, more than 320,000 boat migrants have arrived on Italian shores and an estimated 7,000 died in the Mediterranean as they sought to reach Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Coastguards said it marked the beginning of another “summer surge” of migrants trying to reach Europe from North Africa. There have been 1,370 migrants killed making the crossing this year so far. In 2015, there were 3,771 deaths — the highest on record.

It is feared the sea route from Libya to Italy will see an unprecedented number of attempted crossings this summer after the closure of the migration route from Turkey to Greece.

United Nations refugee expert William Spindler said of yesterday’s fishing boat deaths: “This is a tragedy like so many we have seen before. “It’s likely that as the summer months arrive we will see an increase in the numbers attempting this route.

‘’What usually happens is that when one route closes such as the one from Turkey to Greece, another one opens and this journey between Libya and Italy is very dangerous and very long.” The surviving fishing boat migrants were rescued by two Italian frigates which used a helicopter and life rafts.

It is believed the migrant boat set off from the Libyan shore and was heading to Sicily. It was 18 miles off the Libyan coast when it capsized. An Italian Navy spokesman said: “In this particular case the alarm was raised by somebody on the boat who called the emergency services and we dispatched two ships.

‘’What usually happens is that people smugglers give somebody a phone with the Italian emergency number and when they are in international waters they request help . ‘’We estimate there were around 600 people on the boat and it was overcrowded.”

The Italian navy and coastguard have been involved in more than 23 rescue operations in the last 36 hours. Many of those rescued have been taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Among them was a nine-month-old girl taken from a boat after migrants told rescuers her mother died. An EU fleet is trying to stop people-smuggling across the Med. British survey ship the HMS Enterprise is part of the fleet.

It rescued almost 500 migrants on Tuesday. The number of people rescued and brought to Italy since the beginning of the year is almost 40,000. More than 800 migrants drowned in April 2015 when a boat capsized off Libya.

Last month more than 400 were feared dead after a boat sank off Egypt.

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