There is still no trace of a small boat with 13 people on board which, according to migrants who were able to reach Sardinia, allegedly left from Algeria on November 8 to reach the Italian island before it went missing.
Fifteen Algerian nationals who reached Sardinia's Sulcis on November 8 said that ''two other boats left Algeria for Sardinia with us. One went back, but we lost sight of the second one while we were able to reach the island."
Their witness accounts have kicked off a major search operation along the south-western coast of Sardinia. However, there is still not trace of the boat, coast guard and police said. According to the migrants who arrived in Sardinia, 13 Algerian nationals were traveling on the missing vessel.
Alarm raised by survivors' reports
Rescue operations kicked off Saturday when security officials apprehended the 15 migrants. The migrants were visited, identified and questioned, according to procedures followed after every landing. During questioning, all the migrants spoke about another boat that had been traveling with them, saying it never reached Sardinia.
Two coast guard cutters left from Cagliari and Carloforte to search a vast area that is part of the route usually used to cross the Mediterranean from Algeria to Sardinia. Tax police helicopters and boats, which are already used to patrol Sardinia's coasts, were deployed in the operation. No trace of the boat, however, was found as of Wednesday. Merchant ships and fishing vessels were also been alerted.
Police in Cagliari meanwhile questioned the 15 migrants who landed in Sulcis to outline of phases of the trip from Algeria, and to find out whether migrant smugglers or pirates could have played a role in the disappearance. They found no evidence of this.
Investigators now believe that either the boat headed back to Algeria or that it capsized due to bad weather. However, no wreck or other elements were found in the areas searched.
A similar case was reported in May two years ago, when reports that a little boat with 14 migrants on board had sunk off Teulada surfaced, leading to search operations that lasted days with no results.