More on that mass drowning in the Mediterranean last night, from the CBC.
Italian prosecutors said a Bangladeshi survivor flown to Sicily for treatment told them 950 people were aboard, including hundreds who had been locked in the hold by smugglers. Earlier, authorities said a survivor told them 700 migrants were on board.
It wasn’t immediately clear if they were referring to the same survivor, and Italian Premier Matteo Renzi said authorities were “not in a position to confirm or verify” the death toll.
Locked in the hold. [shudder]
By nightfall Sunday, rescuers on 18 ships had found 28 survivors and “alas, 24 dead,” he said.
The premier of Malta, whose island nation participated in the search and rescue mission, put the number of survivors at 50 total.
Renzi said a total of 18 ships, including nearby commercial vessels pressed into service, were helping in the search mission. An Italian Navy helicopter carried one injured survivor to a hospital in Sicily.
The 20-meter vessel may have overturned because migrants rushed to one side of the craft late Saturday night when they saw an approaching Portuguese-flagged container ship, the King Jacob, which the Italian Coast Guard had dispatched to help them.
The ship was sent to the area in Libyan waters by Italy’s Coast Guard, and once the crew spotted the overloaded boat, it “immediately deployed rescue boats, gangway, nets and life rings,” a spokesman for the ship’s owner said in a statement.
Renzi praised the King Jacob, saying the ship “immediately went into action” on what would become its fifth recent rescue operation.
The ship was sent there to help, and its arrival may have caused the capsizing.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement Sunday that 219,000 people crossed the Mediterranean by sea and 3,500 died last year. This year, 35,000 asylum seekers and migrants have reached Europe so far and more than 900 are known to have died in failed crossings. Last week, 400 people were presumed drowned when another boat capsized.
The smugglers are capitalizing on the migrants’ desperation and taking advantage of chaos and violence in Libya, where rival militias, tribal factions and other political forces have destabilized the country since bloody end of the long dictatorship of Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.
Not much of a spring.