October 3, 2013

Ship capsizes off Italy; 114 African migrants die

Between 450 and 500 people were believed to be on board, and several hundred are still missing.

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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Bodies of drowned migrants are lined up in the port of Lampedusa Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013. A ship carrying African migrants to Europe caught fire and capsized off the Italian island of Lampedusa on Thursday, killing at least 94 people as it spilled hundreds of passengers into the sea, officials said. Over 150 people were rescued but some 200 others were still unaccounted for. It was one of the deadliest recent accidents in the notoriously perilous Mediterranean Sea crossing from Africa for migrants seeking a new life in the European Union.

AP Photo/Nino Randazzo, Health Care Service

click image to enlarge

Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Angelino Alfano gives a statement to the press upon his arrival in the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, southern Italy, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013. At least 114 people died and scores more were missing late Thursday after a crowded fishing boat carrying African migrants from Tripoli caught fire, flipped over and sank, Italian officials said. Hundreds of migrants reach Italy’s shores every day, particularly during the summer when the seas are usually calmer. According to the U.N. refugee agency, 8,400 migrants landed in Italy and Malta in the first six months of this year, almost double the 4,500 who arrived during the first half of 2012.

AP Photo/Danilo Taralli

A host of Italian officials demanded the 28-nation European Union do more to combat smuggling operations and help countries like Italy cope.

“Let us hope that the European Union realizes this isn’t an Italian problem but a European one,” Alfano said as he headed to Lampedusa to oversee the recovery operation.

In a tweet, EU Home Affairs Minister Cecilia Malstrom called for a redoubling of efforts to “fight smugglers exploiting human despair.”

Pope Francis, who visited Lampedusa in July to bemoan the frequent deaths of migrants, sent his condolences.

“It is shameful!” he said during an audience at the Vatican.

Hundreds of migrants reach Italy’s shores every day, particularly during the summer, when seas are usually calmer. According to the U.N. refugee agency, 8,400 migrants landed in Italy and Malta in the first six months of this year, almost double the 4,500 who arrived during the first half of 2012. The numbers have spiked in recent weeks, particularly from Syria.

Still, they are a far cry from the tens of thousands who flooded to Italy — many through Lampedusa — during the Arab Spring exodus of 2011.

Before Thursday’s tragedy, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees had recorded 40 deaths in the first half of 2013 for migrants arriving in Italy and Malta.

Last year, that route saw 500 deaths.

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