Friday, September 07, 2012
One dead, several missing after migrant boat sinks off Italy
ROME (Reuters) - At least one man died and dozens of people were missing after a boat carrying Tunisian migrants sank off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, a coastguard spokesman said on Friday.
Coastguards rescued 56 people, including a pregnant woman, after the migrants telephoned the emergency services overnight to say their boat had run into trouble close to the tiny island of Lampione west of Lampedusa, the spokesman said.
Rescue workers pulled the body of one man from the sea early on Friday, he said.
According to survivor accounts, there were about 100 migrants on the boat when it ran into difficulties about 12 nautical miles off Lampedusa. The coastguard spokesman said rescue workers were searching for the missing.
Last year tens of thousands of refugees and would-be migrants arrived in Lampedusa during the Arab Spring revolutions in North Africa, setting off a crisis that threatened to overwhelm the tiny island. Migrant flows have eased this year following the ouster of long-time rulers in Libya and Tunisia.
Italy has borne the brunt of clandestine seaborne migration to southern Europe which has ebbed and flowed for several years.
Most migrants risk the dangerous voyage across the Mediterranean Sea in small, overcrowded fishing boats, and thousands have died as a result of shipwreck, harsh conditions at sea or lack of food and water.
Lampedusa lies south of Sicily and about 130 km (80 miles) east of Tunisia, the closest point on the north African coast. (Reporting By Catherine Hornby; Editing by Jon Boyle)