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 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The tragic killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a bitter public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 8:27 AM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
North Korea warns the United States that U.S. "citadels" will be attacked, dwarfing the hacking attack on Sony that led to the cancellation of a comedy film's release.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it's never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
More than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation, Unicef has warned.
updated 8:22 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Boko Haram's latest abductions may meet a weary global reaction, Nigerian journalist Tolu Ogunlesi says.
updated 5:34 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Drops, smudges, pools of blood are everywhere -- but in the computer room CNN's Nic Robertson reels from the true horror of the Peshawar school attack.
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 12:01 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT