At least 40 mi­grants dead at sea, 320 oth­ers res­cued


At least 40 mi­grants died Satur­day in the hold of an over­crowded smug­gling boat in the Mediter­ranean Sea north of Libya, ap­par­ently killed by fuel fumes, and some 320 oth­ers on the same boat were saved by the Ital­ian navy, the res­cue ship’s com­man­der said.

Mi­grants by the tens of thou­sands are brav­ing the per­ilous jour­ney across the Mediter­ranean this year, hop­ing to reach Europe and be granted asy­lum. They are flee­ing war, per­se­cu­tion and poverty in the Mid­dle East, Africa and Asia.

“The dead were found in the hold,” Cmdr. Mas­simo Tosi, speak­ing from the navy ship Ci­gala Ful­gosi while the res­cue was still on­go­ing. Asked by RaiNews24 how the mi­grants died, Tosi said “it ap­pears to be from in­hal­ing ex­haust fumes.”

“They are still count­ing the vic­tims,” In­te­rior Min­is­ter An­gelino Al­fano told re­porters.

Tosi said the sur­vivors in­cluded 45 women and three chil­dren.

When res­cuers stepped aboard, the bod­ies of mi­grants were “ly­ing in wa­ter, fuel, hu­man ex­cre­ment” in the hold, Tosi said, adding that among the sur­vivors, “women were cry­ing for their hus­bands (and) their chil­dren who died in the cross­ing.”

Prior to Satur­day’s dis­as­ter, at least 2,100 mi­grants died at sea this year try­ing to make the cross­ing from the shores of Libya, where hu­man traf­fick­ers are based, to Italy. Mi­gra­tion or­ga­ni­za­tions say the Libya-to-Italy cross­ing is by far the dead­li­est. The ex­act toll of dead will never be known, as some boats are be­lieved by author­i­ties to have gone down at sea with­out res­cuers be­ing aware of them.

The num­ber of mi­grants try­ing to reach Europe by sea is on track to hit a record this year, ac­cord­ing to the Geneva-based In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion.

Greece has re­ported 134,988 ar­rivals from Tur­key this year, the group said, while Italy recorded more than 100,000 mi­grants res­cued at sea by mid-Au­gust. Along with other mi­grants land­ing in Spain and Malta, that makes over 243,000 peo­ple cross­ing so far this year — com­pared to 219,000 for all of 2014.

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