Hundreds of Migrants Rescued After Boat Capsizes Off Libya
Gaia Pianigiani, The New York Times
05 Aug 2015
Image: Migrants make the dangerous journey between Africa and Europe(Reuters) – International Business Times
ROME — An overcrowded fishing boat carrying migrants to Europe capsized on Wednesday, apparently after being approached by a rescue vessel a few miles off the coast of Libya. Rescuers saved 400 people, though 25 died when the boat overturned, and another hundred were feared to have drowned, Italian officials said.
Reports of the accident were sketchy, but at least one vessel had already reached the migrants’ vessel and was dropping rescue boats when it overturned. “At the sight of the rescuers, there probably was a transfer of people and the capsizing of the fishing boat,” Cmdr. Filippo Marini of the Italian Coast Guard told the news channel Sky TG24.
Estimates on the number of migrants on board varied on Wednesday because the Italian authorities had yet to verify the information given by the migrants in their first mayday call Wednesday morning to the Coast Guard in Sicily.
“Early testimonies spoke of a number varying between 400 and 600 migrants on board,” Commander Marini said. “But phone calls are usually very disturbed. The information needs to be filtered and verified.”
The Coast Guard diverted more rescue vessels to the area, among them a boat operated by Doctors Without Borders, two Italian Navy vessels, a Coast Guard boat and a private vessel. Nongovernmental organizations have increasingly started helping in rescue operations in the Mediterranean, under the umbrella of Triton, the joint rescue program run by the European Union.
European leaders increased funds for the search-and-rescue operation in April after about 800 migrants died in a shipwreck off Libya when their rickety vessel capsized. Only 28 people survived.
According to the International Organization for Migration, a human rights group, almost 2,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean since January, but it is not possible to verify the toll.
A version of this article appears in print on August 6, 2015, on page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: Crowded Migrant Boat Capsizes Off Libyan Coast.
© 2015 The New York Times Company
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