Hundreds of migrants drown near Libyan coast

Major rescue mission underway after hundreds of Africans migrating across Mediterranean drowned due to overcrowding

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Migrants on a rubber dinghy wait to be rescued by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ship MV Phoenix, some 20 miles (32 kilometres) off the coast of Libya, August 3, 2015.

A major rescue mission took place after more than 700 migrants from Africa, attempting to cross the Mediterranean drowned due to their overcrowded boat tipping over near the Libyan coast, Italy’s coast guard said on Wednesday.

Around 100 migrants have been saved by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), a save and rescue mission, while the search continued for the remaining of the people, the coast guard said.

The exact number of how many people have died has not yet been determined, but "there are bodies in the water," a communications officer for Doctors Without Borders or MSF said.

An Irish navy vessel was the first aid vessel to arrive at the scene and spotted 150 people overboard.

Dignity 1, a MSF rescue vessel, later came to the rescue, offering assistance.

At least three other vessels, including MY Phoenix, that is operated by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), are reported to be on their way.

The boat carrying the migrants is believed to have left from the Libyan city of Zuwara early on Wednesday morning, but it is still unclear as to what actually happened once it was at sea.

After sunrise, the boat phoned in its coordinates to the Italian Coast Guard, which in turn radioed to Dignity 1 and MY Phoenix, according to the MY Phoenix's crew.

The Dignity 1, the closest to the boat's location, proceeded to the area first, but was held up when it spotted another capsized boat carrying migrants, from which it rescued 94 people, including 17 women and a five-year-old boy.

With records of the number of migrants who had been aboard the boat, this incident could be among the worst disasters at sea since April, when another overcrowded boat carrying migrants flipped over leaving 800 people dead.

The central Mediterranean route has become the deadliest sea route for migrants seeking better life conditions, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) reported.

In the same period last year, 1,607 migrants lost their lives at sea and throughout 2014, 3,279 people were recorded to have been killed, attempting to go through with their journey, IMO added.


TRTWorld and agencies