Skip to main content

Official: 31 dead, 200 rescued after ship capsizes near Lampedusa

From Livia Borghese, CNN
updated 9:08 PM EDT, Fri October 11, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: At least 31 people have died, the Maltese military says
  • NEW: A dozen people or more are still believed missing, the military says
  • NEW: More than 200 survivors have been pulled from the water, the military says
  • The ship appeared to be unstable, and then capsized, the military says

Are you there? Share your photos and videos.

Rome (CNN) -- The death toll from a ship that capsized Friday in international waters near the Italian island of Lampedusa climbed to 31, according to the Maltese military.

More than 200 survivors were pulled from the water, but the search continued for more than a dozen people still believed missing after the ship carrying hundreds of migrants sank, the Rescue Center of Malta, a branch of the Armed Forces of Malta, told CNN.

"We are trying to save as many people as we can," said Maltese military spokesman Keith Caruana.

Italian and Maltese military forces using helicopters and boats pulled 206 of the 250 people believed to be on board the ship, authorities said.

The shipwreck occurred in international waters about 60 nautical miles south of Lampedusa, an island south of Sicily, Italian navy spokesman Alessandro Busonero said.

According to a statement released by the Armed Forces of Malta, the ship was being followed at about 4 p.m. local time by military chase planes when it "appeared unstable."

"A few minutes later, the aircraft reported that the boat had capsized and that numerous persons were in the water. Initial assistance was provided by the aircraft, which dropped a life raft in close proximity of the persons in distress," according to the statement posted on the agency's Facebook page.

A significant number of the survivors were rescued from the life raft, Maltese authorities said

The Italian navy sent helicopters and two boats to the scene. Its sailors have rescued at least 50 people, Busonero said.

An Italian navy patrol vessel, the Libra, rescued 56 people, including nine children, the Maltese authorities said. Another 150, including 17 children, were rescued by the Maltese navy patrol vessel, P61, the Maltese military said.

It was not immediately known where the ship began its journey, and the Italian and Maltese military have not released the identities of the migrants.

Island a destination for refugees

Lampedusa, not far from Sicily and the closest Italian island to Africa, has become a destination for tens of thousands of refugees seeking to enter European Union countries -- and such deadly shipwrecks are all too common.

On October 3, a boat carrying more than 500 African migrants sank off the coast of Lampedusa, killing 309 people in what Lampedusa Mayor Giusi Nicolini called "the biggest sea tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea since World War II."

That ship originated in Libya, caught fire off the Italian coast and sank.

Survivors, many of them from Eritrea, told CNN they used bodies to keep themselves afloat until they were rescued.

The incident sparked calls for efforts to reform migration policies in the region.

A week ago Friday, the United Nations' human rights office urged the European Union to work to prevent another such incident.

The agency called on authorities to work to reduce migrant trafficking and address economic and security issues that have driven thousands of African residents to make the risky voyage to Europe in search of a better life.

Just under 115 kilometers (70 miles) from Tunisia, Lampedusa has been the first point of entry to Europe for more than 200,000 refugees and irregular migrants who have passed through the island since 1999.

In recent years, the Italian coast guard says it has been involved in the rescue of more than 30,000 refugees around the island.

CNN's Susannah Palk contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:08 PM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
Tichleman 1
A makeup artist, writer and model who loves monkeys and struggles with demons.
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
Lionel Messi's ability is not in question -- but will the World Cup final allow him to emerge from another footballing legend's shadow?
updated 6:29 AM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
Why are Iraqi politicians dragging their feet while ISIS militants fortify their foothold across the country?
updated 9:32 AM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
An elephant, who was chained for 50 years, cries tears of joy after being freed in India. CNN's Sumnima Udas reports.
updated 3:32 AM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
Beneath a dusty town in northeastern Pakistan, CNN explores a cold labyrinth of hidden tunnels that was once a safe haven for militants.
updated 6:49 PM EDT, Thu July 10, 2014
CNN's Ravi Agrawal asks whether Narendra Modi can harness the country's potential to finally deliver growth.
updated 12:44 AM EDT, Thu July 10, 2014
CNN's Ben Wedeman visits the Yazji family and finds out what it's like living life in the middle of conflict.
updated 10:23 AM EDT, Wed July 9, 2014
Israel has deployed its Iron Dome defense system to halt incoming rockets. Here's how it works.
Even those who aren't in the line of fire feel the effects of the chaos that has engulfed Iraq since extremists attacked.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
updated 12:34 PM EDT, Fri July 11, 2014
People walk with their luggage at the Maiquetia international airport that serves Caracas on July 3, 2014. A survey by pollster Datanalisis revealed that 25% of the population surveyed (end of May) has at least one family member or friend who has emigrated from the country. AFP PHOTO/Leo RAMIREZ (Photo credit should read LEO RAMIREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Plane passengers are used to paying additional fees, but one airport in Venezuela is now charging for the ultimate hidden extra -- air.
ADVERTISEMENT