An Italian coast guard rescue operation in May, 2015 | Photo: picture alliance/EPA/Italian coast guard
An Italian coast guard rescue operation in May, 2015 | Photo: picture alliance/EPA/Italian coast guard

A boat carrying some 50 migrants from Tunisia and West Africa has sunk off the coast of the island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily. The Italian coast guard has rescued 22 people so far, but it has also recovered at least 13 bodies.

At least 13 people died when an overloaded migrant boat capsized near the island of Lampedusa as they were about to be rescued, the Italian coast guard said Monday. 22 people were rescued from the sea and taken to land.

The boat had around 50 people on board when the vessel capsized during the night.

Conditions in the Mediterranean were said to be rough and the vessel overturned after many of its passengers rushed to one side. "The adverse weather conditions and the sudden displacement of the migrants" caused the boat to overturn about six nautical miles (11 kilometers) from Lampedusa, a statement from local authorities said.

The UN migration agency IOM said the boat had set off from Tunisia and had been carrying Tunisian and West African migrants. The spokesperson for the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean, Flavio Di Giacomo, said that about 30 migrants remain missing.

"This highlights once again that urgent action is needed to address the situation in the Mediterranean," said Charlie Yaxley, a spokesperson for the UNHCR. Non-governmental organizations say as many as 30 migrants, including eight children, could be missing from the smuggler's boat, which had departed Tunisia.

More than 1,000 people have died in the Mediterranean so far this year, most on the route from Libya to Europe.

The Italian interior ministry says around 7,940 migrants have reached Italy by boat so far this year, a significant drop compared with previous years. 

With AFP, AP, dpa

 

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