More than 6,000 migrants plucked from sea in a single day, 22 dead
REU PhotoAbout 6,055 migrants were rescued and 22 found dead on the perilous sea route to Europe on Oct. 3, one of the highest numbers in a single day, Italian and Libyan officials said.
The Italian Coast Guard said at least nine migrants had died and a pregnant woman and a child had been taken by helicopter to a hospital on the Italian island of Lampedusa, halfway between Sicily and the Libyan coast, Reuters reported.
Libyan officials said 11 migrant bodies had washed up on a beach east of the capital, Tripoli, and another two migrants had died when a boat sank off the western city of Sabratha.
One Italian Coast Guard ship rescued about 725 migrants on a single rubber boat, one of some 20 rescue operations during the day.
About 10 ships from the coast guard, the navy and humanitarian organizations were involved in the rescues, most of which took place some 30 miles off the coast of Libya.
Libyan naval and coast guard patrols intercepted three separate boats carrying more than 450 migrants, officials said.
Just under 200 minors were among those saved from one of the former fishing boats which had some 720 people on board, according to NGO SOS Mediterranee.
Most of the minors were unaccompanied and nine were under five years old. At least 10 of the 191 women on board were pregnant.
Two women and a child had to be evacuated for medical treatment after suffering severe burns caused by spilled fuel during a rescue from a rubber dinghy by a boat operated by the Doctors without Borders (MSF) charity.
A young pregnant woman died from her burns after being rescued during a second operation by the MSF boat dignity, the charity said.
“It is unacceptable that in 2016 these people have no other choice than to embark on these incredibly dangerous sea journeys,” said MSF coordinator Nicolas Papachrysostomou.
Oct. 3 was the third anniversary of the sinking of a migrant boat off the Italian island of Lampedusa in which 386 people died.
In the disaster three years ago, a fishing boat packed with some 500 people caught fire and sank rapidly in darkness just off the outlying Italian island of Lampedusa in the night of Oct. 2-3.
The disaster resulted in Italy’s navy launching a large-scale search and rescue operation that has since evolved into a multinational effort involving groups like MSF and Save the Children.
The president of the Italian Red Cross, Francesco Rocca, said his organization’s volunteers who had witnessed the horrors of that day were still haunted by it.
“Three years later and people continue to die in their thousands - nothing has changed. Indifference is killing people.”
Italy last year declared Oct. 3 a national day of commemoration and welcome in honor of the dead.
According to the International Organisation for Migration, around 132,000 migrants have arrived in Italy since the start of the year and 3,054 have died.
Most depart from Libya, where political chaos and a security vacuum have allowed people smugglers to act with impunity.