Crews Rescue Migrants After Shipwrecks

Italy reports woman, child died in attempted Mediterranean crossing
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 6, 2023 10:45 AM CDT
Italian Rescuers Save Migrants Clinging to Reef
In this picture taken from video distributed on Sunday by the Italian Alpine Rescue squads, a migrant stranded on a rocky reef on the tiny Italian southern island of Lampedusa, Sicily, is pulled to safety by a helicopter.   (Italian Alpine Rescue via AP)

Dozens of migrants were dramatically rescued by Italy as they foundered in the sea or clung to a rocky reef Sunday after three boats launched by smugglers from northern Africa shipwrecked in rough waters in separate incidents over the weekend. Survivors said some 30 fellow migrants were missing from capsized vessels, the AP reports. In a particularly risky operation, two helicopters battled strong winds to pluck to safety, one by one, migrants stranded for nearly two days on a steep, rocky reef of tiny Lampedusa island. Firefighters said all all the migrants, including a child, who had been clinging to the rocks after their boat smashed into the reef late Friday early Saturday, were saved.

In all, 34 migrants had been stranded for two nights on the reef, including a woman eight months pregnant, said Giornale di Sicilia, a newspaper. She was taken to a hospital, it said. Some were rescued by a firefighter helicopter and the others by an Italian air force copter, which lowered Alpine mountaineering rescuers down to the reef and one by one hoisted the migrants from the rocks. The helicopter operation was launched after the coast guard determined the rough sea would make it impossible for rescue boats to approach the jagged rocks safely. Meanwhile, survivors of two boats that capsized some 23 nautical miles southwest of Lampedusa told rescuers that about 30 fellow migrants were missing.

The Coast Guard said that in two operations it saved 57 migrants and recovered the bodies of a child and of a woman. Coast Guard members lowered a wide rope ladder and helped pull up migrants into their rescue vessel, rocked by wind-whipped waves. At least one diver jumped into the sea to guide a raft, tossed into the Mediterranean by the rescuers, so the survivors could cling to it while it was pulled toward the vessel, coast guard video showed. Before the two bodies were recovered on Saturday, a total of 1,814 migrants were known to have perished this year while attempting the Mediterranean crossing to Italy in boats launched from Tunisia or Libya, said Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesperson for the UN migration agency IOM.

(More migrants stories.)

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