14 bodies found on barge by Irish Navy
Fourteen bodies of dead migrants were found by Irish naval personnel on a barge crowded with migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.
The grim find was made during a search and rescue operation yesterday 80 kilometres north-west of Tripoli, Libya.
The LE Niamh and a vessel operated by the Medicins Sans Frontiere medical charity went to the aid of around 500 migrants crammed on board a wooden barge.
During a search of the barge, members of the Irish Navy recovered the 14 bodies lying below the deck of the barge.
An Irish Defence Forces spokesman said today an investigation into the cause of the deaths would be carried out by the Italian authorities when the LE Niamh arrives at the port of Messina in Sicily.
During the course of the operation (inset) the LE Niamh took on board 35 children, 38 women, and 137 men. The rest of the 500 migrants were taken on board the Medicins Sans Frontier vessel the MV Dignity.
The overcrowded barge is believed to have left Tripoli in the early hours of Monday.
It is the first time Irish naval personnel have encountered dead migrants on board vessels in the Mediterranean.
At the time the LE Niamh had a total of 453 rescued migrants aboard bound for Sicily, as it earlier rescued 27 children, 183 men and 33 women.
The rescued migrants were receiving food, water and medical attention on board the LE Niamh today.
The LE Niamh has rescued 1,280 migrants since it was deployed on July 10 as a replacement for the LE Eithne.