Dozens of migrants feared drowned
Dozens of passengers in a crowded rubber boat fell into the sea and may have drowned as a rescue vessel neared, survivors reported.
The exhausted passengers arrived in Italy yesterday to join thousands of other migrants rescued in the Mediterranean in recent days.
Giovanna di Benedetto of the aid group Save the Children said the exact toll is not known, but she said survivors, in their first interviews with aid officials, reported that many people fell into the sea and could not swim after their boat either deflated or experienced difficulty.
The incident is believed to have occurred on Sunday in the sea between Libya and Sicily when a commercial vessel, the Zeran, approached the rubber boat to rescue the migrants. The survivors were brought to Catania today.
The weekend saw a dramatic increase in rescues as smugglers in Libya took advantage of calm seas and warm weather to send thousands of would-be refugees out into the Mediterranean in overloaded rubber boats and fishing vessels. The coast guard reported that nearly 7,000 people were rescued in the three days ending Sunday.
The deaths come on top of the estimated 800 migrants who are believed to have drowned last month when their boat capsized off Libya with hundreds of passengers locked in the hold by smugglers.
A few days earlier, a further 400 people were feared drowned in another capsizing.