Boat Carrying 500 Overturns, 200 Lost at Sea. Almost every week, we hear horror stories about refugees drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. The latest news is an accident involving more than 400 people. More dead than living are being pulled from the water at this point. 200 people are still feared lost at sea, and as the body count rises, details of the tragedy at sea are beginning to emerge.
The vessel is said to have originated in Libya near the city of Tripoli, carrying immigrants from the African nations of Eritrea, Ghana and Somalia.
Not far into the voyage, the engine on board died, and the vessel began taking on water.
In an effort to alert nearby ships that the vessel was now adrift, someone set a fire on board, hoping the smoke and flames would act as a distress call, alerting other ships in the area to come to its aid.
The fire spread rapidly. In an effort to escape the blaze, passengers retreated to one side of the vessel. Their combined weight pitched the boat to one side, capsizing the 60-foot craft in the process, spilling those on board into the sea.
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The mayor of Lampedusa, a nearby island that has become a headquarters for the rescue effort, called the accident an “immense tragedy.”
“We need only caskets, certainly not ambulances,” Pietro Bartolo, chief of health services on the island, told Radio 24.
The scale of the accident is difficult to comprehend. The sheer magnitude has attracted the attention of the international press.
However, the passage across the Mediterranean from North Africa to the European continent is notoriously treacherous, African immigrants regularly attempt it in overcrowded makeshift vessels.
The International Organization for migration reports that 25,000 people have died over the past 20 years, attempting to cross the Mediterranean. 2,000 died in 2011; 1,700 in the past year.
Of the number that are still missing, the vast majority are considered women and children. Only three women have been rescued from the water. It may be too early to tell, but it seems that no children survived.
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In the first nine months of this year, 21,780 migrants reached Italian shores, 4,000 of them were children, according to statistics released by Save the Children. Most of the minors were not accompanied. Raffaella Milano, the director of Save the Children Italy, said in a statement.
The number of unaccompanied minors immigrating from North Africa and Europe is cause for concern.
Milano said in the same statement, “Italy and Europe cannot ignore such a constant flux of foreign minors arriving alone, without any adults to take care of them.”
According to the group, children are often victims of human trafficking and end up as sex slaves or working in sweatshops in positions of indentured servitude once they reach their new countries.
Although an Italian holding, the island of Lampedusa is closer to the African country of Tunisia than it is to the Italian southern coast. It lies approximately 70 miles from the country’s mainland.
TheBlot will continue to update this story as it unfolds.–