Migrant Boat Survivors: NATO Left Us to Starve
Of 72 passengers, only nine are left
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2011 8:10 AM CDT
A boat, but not the one in question, carrying Tunisian migrants enters the port of Lampedusa on April 12, 2011.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Despite issuing multiple distress calls, dozens of African migrants died as their boat drifted in the Mediterranean for 16 days, seemingly ignored by NATO and other potential rescuers. The boat, carrying 72 passengers including women, children, and political refugees, set out from Tripoli on March 25. En route to the Italian island of Lampedusa, however, the vessel started losing fuel. Alarms were raised with the Italian coast guard, and the boat made contact with a military helicopter and NATO aircraft carrier, but no rescue effort was mounted; 61 passengers died onboard the boat from hunger and thirst.

"Every morning we would wake up and find more bodies, which we would leave for 24 hours and then throw overboard," says one survivor, who attributes his survival to drinking his own urine and eating two tubes of toothpaste. Of the 11 remaining passengers, one died shortly after the boat washed ashore in Libya. Another died in prison, where the migrants were detained for four days by Moammar Gadhafi's forces. In its exclusive piece on the tragedy, the Guardian notes that international maritime law requires all vessels to answer nearby distress calls and help when possible. Click for the full story.