Thursday, April 07, 2011

250 Feared Dead in Libya Boat Crash

250 feared dead in Libya boat crash

Thu Apr 7, 2011 5:23AM

Would-be immigrants in a boat are helped as they arrive in Lampedusa harbor off the southern Italian island on March 30, 2011.
At least 250 people are reportedly missing after a boat carrying refugees of different nationalities from Libya to Italy capsized off the coast of the island of Lampedusa.

Somali refugees are reported to be among more than 300 migrants whose boat overturned near Lampedusa, a Press TV correspondent in Mogadishu reported.

Only 50 of the 300 people were saved while dead bodies of 250 are still missing, the report added.

The International Organization for Migration says the vessel was carrying people from Somalia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ivory Coast, Chad and Sudan, estimating that at least 40 women and 5 children were onboard the boat when it turned over.

Italian Coast Guard officials have used aircraft and boats to look for possible survivors, but said bad weather conditions have hindered rescue efforts.

The influx of immigrants to Italy started two months ago in the wake of anti-regime protests and following government crackdowns in Libya and Tunisia, which sent large numbers of people heading to Italian island of Lampedusa and thus created an alarming humanitarian situation.

Most of the immigrants, estimated by Italian officials to top 22,000 people, have fled the political turmoil and the economic hardships that seem to be worsening with post-revolution instability going on.

Rome has called on the European Union to help block the flow of immigrants, and has also agreed to provide Tunisia with some equipment to increase its border security and stop Tunisians from taking dangerous journeys to Italy.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has said nearly 300,000 Libyans are expected to leave their country and most of them would probably head for Italy.

Libyan anti-government forces, inspired by revolutions that toppled authoritarian rulers in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt, are fighting to unseat Muammar Gaddafi after suffering under his despotic rule for over 41 years.

Gaddafi's bloody repression of anti-government protesters has claimed the lives of thousands of people since the beginning of the revolution in mid-February.

Dozens of civilians have also been killed in crisis-hit Libya since US-led forces launched aerial and sea attacks on the North African country began last month.

Libya says at least 114 people, many of them civilians, have been killed in US-led airstrikes in the country.

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