‘The sea is not friendly’
Up to 245 migrants missing after 2 Mediterranean shipwrecks
Two wrecks of migrant ships in the Mediterranean have claimed as many as 245 lives, including those of at least five children, according to survivor accounts given to UN agencies and authorities in Sicily, where dozens of rescued migrants were taken.
Survivors of one wreck, some of them hospitalized in Pozzallo, Sicily, where they were being treated for hypothermia and exhaustion, told authorities who interviewed them that their traffickers had crammed some 130-140 people, apparently all from central African countries, into a motorized rubber dinghy designed to hold at most 20 people.
The dinghy started deflating on one end, the passengers quickly shifted their positions in the boat, and the craft tipped over, authorities said, based on numerous survivors’ descriptions.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity since the shipwreck is being investigated.
The dinghy wasn’t equipped with any distress signalling equipment. The 52 survivors clung for hours to the wreckage of the dinghy until they were spotted by a patrol plane and rescued by a Danish cargo ship, which was dispatched to their aid by the Italian Coast Guard.
One survivor was a Nigerian woman, whose 5-month-old baby died. The infant’s corpse was one of the few bodies so far
recovered, authorities said.
“I lost my baby, she drowned, but God didn’t allow me to die,” the woman, who asked to be identified only by her initials, S.J., told The Associated Press in an interview outside the migrant processing centre in Pozzallo.
The 22-year-old, from Benin City, in Nigeria, reflected on her journey that begin in March 2016 in her homeland and offered these words for other Nigerians.
“I want to tell my fellow people ... to not come, it’s not easy to come here ... the sea is not friendly, many things
Even at the moment that the cargo ship was about to pluck the survivors to safety, the woman recalled, some just couldn’t hold on any longer. “Even as they were rescued, one person died, a baby died.”
In the end, she said, 82 people perished and 52 survived.
Police in Sicily said in a statement that many of the survivors recounted that among those who drowned was one of the smugglers who had been steering the boat.
“They couldn’t even remember who saved them. They were completely shocked and
traumatized,” said Carlotta Sami, Rome-based spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency.
Meanwhile, at its Geneva headquarters, the refugee agency said that one of its partner agencies, the International Medical Corps, reported a shipwreck on Sunday off the Libyan coast in which 163 people are missing and feared dead. The UN agency said one woman and six men were rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard.
That boat was intercepted by the Libyan coast guard, said the UNHRC’s Sami, who had no other details.
A Nigerian woman, who asked to be identified only by her initials, S. J. speaks with The Associated Press in an interview outside the migrant processing centre in Pozzallo, Southern Italy. S. J., whose 5-month-old baby died when the dinghy they were aboard deflated and tipped over, is one of the survivors of two wrecks of migrant ships in the Mediterranean have claimed as many as 245 lives last week.