A coast guard cutter in Cagliari searching for eight migrants who have been missing since a shipwreck four days ago off Sant'Antioco, in south-west Sardinia | Credit: Tax police
A coast guard cutter in Cagliari searching for eight migrants who have been missing since a shipwreck four days ago off Sant'Antioco, in south-west Sardinia | Credit: Tax police

The first two victims of a shipwreck near the Italian island Sardinia have been found dead. Their boat was carrying a group of thirteen Algerian nationals. Eight are still missing. Rescuers are increasingly less confident that they will find them alive.

Only three of the 13 Algerian migrants whose boat shipwrecked off the coast of Sardinia were rescued. Their little boat left Algeria on Thursday. The ship's engine stopped working just a few kilometers off the Island of Toro, a small, uninhabited island located 10 kilometers south of the coast of Sardinia. The migrants reportedly did not wait for help, but instead started swimming in an attempt to reach the coast.


Search operation during the weekend 

Nearly 1,000 Algerian migrants have landed on Sardinia's coasts since the start of the year, crossing the 200 miles between Annaba, Algeria, and Sant'Antioco or Teulada, both located in Italy, aboard little boats. 

The first victim of the shipwreck was discovered on Friday night, while the second was found on Saturday by police and coast guards. 

Helicopters of police and port authorities searched the area while security officials looked for survivors inland, in case someone had been able to swim to safety. However, they reportedly found no trace of the eight who are still missing.

Search operations were suspended on Monday due to bad weather but are scheduled to resume in the coming days although the hope of finding survivors is decreasing with time. 

Controversial new tragedy 

Prosecutors in Cagliari, the capital of the region of Sardinia, have opened an investigation into the case. 

The tragedy has sparked a discussion on the high number of Algerians reaching Sardinia. 

"We are aware of trafficking from Algeria, which has been going on for four years, and is different from the one taking off from Libya," said Filippo Spanu, Sardinia's councilor for general affairs who is in charge of migration. He accused the Italian government of failing to properly respond to the region's requests for help.  

"This traffic is certainly managed by criminals who exploit the hope for a better life of youths who are leaving and creates social alarm in our island," he said. "The region has confronted the situation with concrete proposals and actions. [...] Our proposals are slowly falling with the silence of the new government."
 

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