At least 34 migrants die in Mediterranean disaster
At least 34 migrants, most of them toddlers, drowned yesterday, as coastguard boats and other vessels tried to save hundreds of others packed into boats off the coast of Libya, rescuers said.
One of a group of boats listed suddenly, sending about 200 people tumbling into the Mediterranean, Italian Coast Guard commander Cosimo Nicastro told Reuters. “At least 20 dead bodies were spotted in the water,” he said. Rescue group MOAS said it had already recovered 34 bodies. “Most are toddlers,” the group’s co-founder Chris Catrambone said on Twitter.
The coast guard called in more ships to help with the rescue, saying about 1,700 people were packed into about 15 vessels. More than 1,300 people have died this year on the world’s most dangerous crossing for migrants fleeing poverty and war across Africa and the Middle East. Despite efforts by Italy and the European Union to bolster the Tripoli-based coast guard and funnel training and equipment to fight trafficking to the U.N.-backed government, record numbers of migrants are coming this year.
More than 50,000 migrants have been rescued at sea and brought to Italy so far, a 46 percent increase on the same period of last year, the Interior Ministry said this week.
The Libyan Coast Guard fired shots on May 22 as non-governmental vessels conducted rescues nearby, humanitarian group Jugend Rettet, which operates the Iuventa rescue ship, said on its Facebook page. The shooting prompted about 100 migrants to jump into the water and swim toward humanitarian vessels.