Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Migrants die of thirst off North African coast: U.N.
ROME (Reuters) - Fifty four people trying to reach Italy from Libya died of thirst after a 15-day voyage in which their rubber boat gradually deflated, the United Nations Refugee Agency said on Tuesday, citing the sole survivor.
It said the man, an Eritrean national, was rescued by Tunisian coastguards in a state of advanced dehydration clinging to the remains of the boat after being spotted by fishermen the previous night, the agency said.
The man said he left Libya towards the end of June as part of a 55-strong group, half of whom came from Eritrea.
He told UNHCR officials the craft nearly reached the coast of Italy but was driven back by strong winds and began to deflate after a few days.
It was not carrying enough water and people soon began to suffer from dehydration. Many also drank sea water, which worsened their thirst, he told the officials.
The incident is the latest in a long series of disasters which have killed thousands of migrants attempting to reach southern Europe from North Africa in small, unstable and frequently overcrowded boats.
According to the UNHCR, around 170 people have died this year trying to reach Europe from Libya. Around 1,300 have reached Italy by sea since the beginning of 2012 and another 1,000 people have reached Malta.
(Reporting By James Mackenzie; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters