Sur­vivors head to Si­cily af­ter new shipwreck ‘hor­ror’


Sur­vivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Libya in which some 200 mi­grants were feared drowned were be­ing brought to safety in Si­cily on Thurs­day, as tales emerged of the “hor­rific” mo­ment the boat over­turned.

Their fish­ing boat, be­lieved to have been car­ry­ing more than 600 peo­ple, ran into dif­fi­culty about 15 nau­ti­cal miles off Libya on Wed­nes­day and over­turned when res­cuers neared, af­ter fran­tic mi­grants rushed to one side in their des­per­a­tion to be saved.

Ir­ish pa­trol ves­sel Ni­amh, first on the scene of the dis­as­ter, was headed to Palermo with 367 sur­vivors, in­clud­ing 12 women and 13 chil­dren, as well as 25 bod­ies re­cov­ered from the sea.

The Ital­ian coast­guard told AFP the search for re­main­ing sur­vivors “con­tin­ued through­out the night and will be car­ried out all day to­day.”

“It was a hor­rific sight, peo­ple des­per­ately cling­ing to lifebelts, boats and any­thing they could, fight­ing for their lives, amidst peo­ple drown­ing, and those who had al­ready died,” said Juan Ma­tias, a pro­ject co­or­di­na­tor for Doc­tors With­out Borders ( MSF).

The MSF boat Dig­nity One was the sec­ond ves­sel on the scene and helped res­cue pan­ick­ing chil­dren and adults from the wa­ter. It was de­layed, how­ever, by be­ing di­verted en route to help another boat in trou­ble with 94 peo­ple aboard.

‘ Se­vere lack of re­sources’

“The fact that we were first called to as­sist this boat and then shortly af­ter­wards sent to another one high­lights the se­vere lack of re­sources avail­able for res­cue oper­a­tions,” Ma­tias said.

Italy’s coast guard on Thurs­day said it had saved 381 mi­grants on another boat, which then sank 30 nau­ti­cal miles off the Libyan coast.

The MSF com­ments were echoed by the deputy di­rec­tor of the Euro­pean Borders Agency Fron­tex, Gil Arias- Fer­nan­dez, who told El Mundo daily that there was a short­age of re­sources to pre­vent dis­as­ters, be­cause coun­tries were re­luc­tant to lend equip­ment.

“We have t he nec­es­sary money but we don’t have the ships, planes and bor­der guards in which to in­vest the money. We are not get­ting an ad­e­quate re­sponse from the Euro­pean mem­bers to meet our needs,” he said.

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