With search efforts continuing late into the day, the navy saved 130 people and was still searching for others, it said yesterday. ”The vessel Vega rescued 135 migrants from a sinking vessel. Forty-five bodies were recovered and search efforts are ongoing,” the navy said on Twitter. While the European Union has pushed hard to limit the influx of people fleeing war and poverty, a bout of good weather as summer arrives has kicked off a fresh stream of boats trying to make the perilous crossing from Libya to Italy.
The coastguard said about 1,900 people were saved yesterday from 16 vessels in distress, adding to an estimated 10,000 people already rescued near the Libyan coast in the past four days. ”It’s astounding. We are almost at the level of the Greek islands last year,” said Flavio di Giacomo, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, referring to a period when thousands arrived there from Turkey every day.
About 40,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy’s southern ports so far this year. But in one of the worst tragedies in the Mediterranean recently, a fishing trawler with some 650 people capsized off the coast of Libya on Wednesday. The Italian navy, which captured the tragedy in a horrifying video that shows the boat roll over and dump its passengers into the water, was able to rescue about 560 people.
But at least five people died and 100 are still feared missing, according to many survivors who reported having lost a loved one or a fellow passenger. On Thursday, the EU’s naval force said up to 30 migrants were believed to have died after another ship flipped over off Libya.
“Three sinkings in three days, it’s very worrying,” said Carlotta Sami, spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency in Rome.
A Doctors Without Borders (MSF) team in Sicily who assisted the survivors of Wednesday’s shipwreck could hardly fathom their patients’ distress. ”Nearly all of them lost one or several relatives,” MSF head of mission Andrea Anselmi said, adding that it was “hard to believe” that tragedies at such a scale could be happening.