Their boat was found on Thursday 36 nautical miles north of Tripoli and it sank as they were being rescued with 102 people on board, 41 of whom are feared dead.
The survivors were from Gambia, Ghana and Mali. Another merchant ship, the Liberian-flagged Jamila was also headed for Porto Empedocle with 206 migrants on board.
According to London’s Daily Mail, on Saturday, the bodies of 18 people were found by rescuers on board an overcrowded migrant boat. Italian and Maltese naval vessels assisted by a passing Danish cargo ship rescued some 400 migrants from the smugglers’ boat in waters between Malta and Libya – and found the bodies inside.
The Italian Coast Guard said one rescued migrant died on board one of its Coast Guard motorboats, raising the death toll to 19. Maltese authorities said many of the bodies were in the vessel’s hold.
There was no word on the nationality of the survivors, who were taken to Italy. Malta said that since Thursday some 5,000 migrants have been rescued by Italy, many with Maltese help. Italian authorities said engine fume inhalation was the apparent cause of death in this case. The boat was spotted in the night by a Danish ship south of the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The Maltese military was immediately alerted and requested assistance from Italian coast guard to help rescue the asylum-seekers from the wooden 25m boat.
Two other merchant ships passing by were also scrambled. Two of the migrants were evacuated by helicopter to hospital in Palermo in Sicily in a serious condition.
The navy said a second warship had begun another rescue of a migrant boat south of Lampedusa, which is Italy’s southernmost point and is closer to the African continent than mainland Italy.
There has been a sharp rise in migrant landings in recent weeks because of the calm summer weather and growing lawlessness in Libya, with hundreds of migrants now being intercepted by Italian authorities every day.
Around 80,000 migrants are now believed to have landed in Italy so far this year – higher than the previous record of some 60,000 arriving in 2011 at the height of the turmoil triggered by the Arab Spring revolutions.
‘Over the past 48 hours we have seen uninterrupted rescues by merchant vessels, military ships and the coast guard. There is a huge number of boats on their way.’
Thousands have died in the crossings, either by drowning, dehydration or being suffocated by toxic fumes. Earlier this month, Italian officials discovered the bodies of 45 migrants in the hold of a fishing boat, where they appeared to have suffocated after being locked in by traffickers.]]>