Italy says 30 migrants are missing after boat capsized off Libya
ROME – About 30 migrants are missing and are believed to have drowned after the overcrowded boat they were on capsized in an attempt to rescue a cargo ship off the coast of Libya, the Italian Coast Guard said on Sunday.
Seventeen migrants have been rescued and a search for the missing is underway after an early morning attempt to rescue at a search and rescue zone under Libya’s jurisdiction, the Coast Guard said.
“During the rescue operations… the boat capsized while the migrants were being transferred: 17 people were rescued and recovered from the (cargo) ship, while approximately 30 migrants were missing,” the Coast Guard said.
The latest disaster in the Mediterranean came exactly two weeks after a shipwreck off Italy’s southern coast of Calabria killed at least 76 migrants and caused more bodies to wash ashore almost daily.
That shipwreck has put Italy’s right-wing government on the defensive as it tries to stave off harsh criticism that it failed to intervene in time to save the migrants.
Sunday’s botched rescue is sure to provide more finger-pointing at who is responsible for the deaths, even as more migrants make the perilous crossing of the central Mediterranean towards the Italian coast.
The Italian Coast Guard said the boat in distress is in Libya’s search and rescue zone and said the deadly episode exposed “the inaction” of other countries in the Mediterranean.
Rome has long complained to its EU partners that it bears the brunt of the tens of thousands of migrants who seek to reach Europe by boat each year.
The distressed boat was first noticed by Alarm Phone, a charity that monitors migrant boats, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Benghazi. It said it then alerted Italian authorities at 0118 GMT on Saturday morning.
The boat was also spotted by a surveillance plane from German NGO SeaWatch, which reported it was “dangerously overcrowded and in frightening waves”.
In a statement, the Italian Coast Guard confirmed that Alarm Phone had informed the Rome rescue operations center and the Maltese and Libyan authorities about the boat.
A merchant vessel that approached the boat after SeaWatch’s warning reported difficulty in rescuing the boat due to the inclement weather, the Coast Guard said.
– emergency call –
Authorities in Libya – which the Coast Guard said were responsible for search and rescue efforts in that zone – reported a “lack of availability of naval resources” and requested assistance from Rome, which dispatched three other merchant vessels nearby to the area for testimony.
SeaWatch also tweeted on Saturday that Tripoli said it was “unable to send a patrol boat.”
After the cargo ship “Froland” reached the site, a rescue operation began early Sunday morning, during which the refugee boat capsized, the Coast Guard said.
Two of the 17 migrants safely boarded required urgent medical attention and the ship proceeded to Malta to disembark them.
Merchant ships are still in the area to search for missing persons, along with two Frontex planes, it said.
“The rescue operation took place outside the area of responsibility of the Italian SAR (search and rescue) and recorded the inactivity of the other national maritime coordination and rescue centers involved in the area,” the Coast Guard said.
On Sunday morning, Alarm Phone said it had received another emergency call from the migrants, more than 24 hours after the charity first alerted authorities.
“They are exhausted and still out at sea battling the bad wind and weather conditions,” Alarm Phone tweeted.
In a subsequent message on Twitter, Alarm Phone said it had lost contact with the boat.
Source: Crypto News Deutsch