At Least 94 Dead, Hundreds Missing in Sicily Shipwreck

Boat was carrying some 500 migrants from Africa

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Oct 3, 2013 6:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – A ship carrying African migrants toward Italy caught fire and capsized off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa today, spilling hundreds of passengers into the sea, officials said. At least 94 bodies have been recovered so far, and 159 people rescued, but more than 200 people are unaccounted for. Pietro Bartolo, the top health official on Lampedusa, said today he expected the toll to rise as search operations continue. It was one of the deadliest accidents in recent times during the perilous crossing from Africa for migrants seeking a new life in the European Union. Interior Minister Angelino Alfano headed to Lampedusa to oversee the rescue operations first-hand. Pope Francis, who visited Lampedusa in July, quickly sent his condolences.

"It's an immense tragedy," said Lampedusa Mayor Giusi Nicolini, adding that the dead included at least one child of about 3 and a pregnant woman. The migrants were from Eritrea, Ghana, and Somalia, the coast guard said. Coast guard ships and helicopters from across the region, as well as local fishing boats, were on the scene trying to find survivors. Nicolini said the ship had caught fire after those on board set off flares so it would be seen by passing ships. The ship apparently then capsized, spilling the passengers into the sea near Conigli island.

An Italian Coast Guard vessel transporting survivors of a ship that caught fire and sank off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, arrives at Lampedusa, Italy, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.
An Italian Coast Guard vessel transporting survivors of a ship that caught fire and sank off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, arrives at Lampedusa, Italy, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.   (AP Photo/Italian Coast Guard)
Survivors of a ship that caught fire and sank are seen aboard an Italian Coast Guard vessel as it arrives at Lampedusa, Italy, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.
Survivors of a ship that caught fire and sank are seen aboard an Italian Coast Guard vessel as it arrives at Lampedusa, Italy, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.   (AP Photo/Italian Coast Guard)
The body of a drowned migrant is unloaded from a Coast Guard boat in the port of Lampedusa, Sicily, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.
The body of a drowned migrant is unloaded from a Coast Guard boat in the port of Lampedusa, Sicily, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.   (AP Photo/Nino Randazzo, Health Care Service, HO)
Firefighters unload the body of a drowned migrant from a Coast Guard boat in the port of Lampedusa, Sicily, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.
Firefighters unload the body of a drowned migrant from a Coast Guard boat in the port of Lampedusa, Sicily, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.   (AP Photo/Nino Randazzo, Health Care Service, HO)
Bodies of drowned migrants are lined up in the port of Lampedusa Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.
Bodies of drowned migrants are lined up in the port of Lampedusa Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.   (AP Photo/Nino Randazzo, Health Care Service, HO)
Bodies of drowned migrants are lined up in the port of Lampedusa Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.
Bodies of drowned migrants are lined up in the port of Lampedusa Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.   (AP Photo/Nino Randazzo, Health Care Service, HO)
Bodies of drowned migrants are lined up in the port of Lampedusa Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.
Bodies of drowned migrants are lined up in the port of Lampedusa Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013.   (AP Photo/Nino Randazzo, Health Care Service, HO)
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