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MILAN—Rescue workers searched the sea on Thursday after a fishing boat carrying as many as 600 migrants, including children, capsized off the coast of Libya, leaving some 200 people feared dead.
A spokesman for the Italian coast guard said 373 people have been rescued and 25 bodies have been recovered in the continuing effort in the Mediterranean. The survivors and bodies are being taken to the Sicilian city of Palermo, the Coast Guard spokesman said.
The number of dead is expected to grow. “I fear the death toll will be around 200,” said Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesman for the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration.
According to preliminary reports, the boat capsized in the Mediterranean on Wednesday after the migrants moved to one side once they saw two rescue boats approaching.
The incident mirrors a shipwreck in April, in which about 800 migrants died in the Sicilian Strait, in one of the deadliest migrant accident ever recorded.
Italy and Greece have seen a surge in the number of migrants reaching their shores. According to the International Organization for Migration’s latest data, more than 2,000 people have died so far this year trying to cross the Mediterranean, the vast majority of whom were seeking to land in Italy.
Five people rescued on Wednesday—a Palestinian family of three and two Bangladeshi men—were carried by helicopter to the small island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, to receive urgent medical aid.
According to their accounts collected by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the boat carried several Syrian families and several minors. As of Thursday evening, 13 minors had been rescued.
A spokeswoman for the UNHCR said the Palestinian father rescued his 19-month-old daughter who had fallen into the sea. The child is dehydrated but out of danger, the spokeswoman said.
She added the mother had kidney failure and received urgent dialysis treatment in Lampedusa. She is now doing well, the spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, pressure to rescue migrants crossing over from Libya continued.
The Italian Coast Guard on Thursday said it rescued 381 migrants from a boat that sank 30 miles from the Libyan coast. In a different rescue operation, the Italian navy rescued 101 migrants from a sinking rubber dinghy in the Strait of Sicily, while another one was continuing.
The scale of the humanitarian crisis has pushed some aid groups and private organizations to launch their own search and rescue operations.
Doctors Without Borders, whose boat was one of the first to reach the scene of Wednesday’s accident, began its operations in May with the Dignity I and Bourbon Argos ships. The organization says it has rescued more than 10,000 people since its project began.
The sinking “underscores the severe lack of adequate search and rescue operations in the area,” the organization said on Thursday.
The European Union said it has tripled the resources dedicated to such operations after April’s tragedy, allowing for the rescue of more than 50,000 people since the beginning of June.
“But even if the number of people dying at sea has fallen dramatically, it is not enough and will never be enough to prevent all tragedies,” it said.
In July, EU governments agreed to redistribute 32,000 migrants from Italy and Greece among most of the union’s member states, instead of the initially targeted 40,000. by Giovanni Legorano. source-Wall Street Journal
photo-PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES