|92 African migrants die in boat tragedy
At least 92 people drowned and 200 were believed missing after a boat carrying up to 500 African asylum seekers caught fire and sank off the Italian coast today, officials said. (pictured, survivors as captured on Italian Coast Guard video)
“We have 92 dead and 151 people saved. We are looking for more survivors in the water,'' a coast guard spokesman told AFP, adding that the search had been going on for more than six hours.
A local doctor said a three-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl were among victims.
“The first assistance was provided by people on pleasure boats who heard the screams,'' Antonino Candela, a local emergency medical worker, said.
Giusi Nicolini, the mayor of Lampedusa, said migrants had told her they lit a small fire on their boat around half a mile from shore to attract the attention of coast guards after their vessel suffered engine failure.
The fire then spread, sowing panic on board which caused the boat to flip over and eventually sink.
“This is a tragedy without precedent. In many years of work here I have never seen anything like this,'' Pietro Bartolo, a local doctor, was quoted by the Italian news agency ANSA as saying.
“We don't need ambulances unfortunately, we need hearses,'' Bartolo said.
“There are still hundreds missing,'' he added.