An unstable fishing boat loaded with hundreds of African immigrants sank in the Mediterranean Sea on Thursday. The death toll has now reached 114 people.
The immigrants, many of whom couldn’t swim, ended up in the sea after the boat began to take on water. Someone aboard the sinking ship lit a fire to grab the attention of passing boats. That fire began to spread and the ship capsized when its passengers ran to one side of the boat to avoid the fires flames.
As chief of Lampedusa health service Pietro Bartolo observed the scene he said, “We need only caskets, certainly not ambulances.”
Thousands of illegal immigrants make the perilous crossing each year in the hopes of a better life for themselves and their families in the European Union. Each traveler pays thousands of dollars for the right to sit aboard an overcrowded boat that typically is not safe for one passenger let alone hundreds.
Officials believe that upwards of 450 to 500 people were aboard the boat which set sail from the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The Italy shipwreck occurred half-a-mile from the Lampedusa shoreline.
159 immigrants have been rescued as the death toll continues to rise.
Immigrants aboard the shipwreck hailed from Eritrea, Ghana and Somalia.
It’s still not clear why the smugglers did not carry a mobile or satellite phone. Typically when reaching close to shore a smuggler will phone a fellow smuggler for help.
According to officials only three of 100 women were rescued and all 10 children aboard the ship were killed.
The Shipwrecks rescue workers included coast guard ships, fishing boats and helicopters.
In a grim and sad scene workers spent most of the first 24 hours delivering body bags to a local port.
The Italy shipwreck rescue efforts will continue under workers are sure no more survivors are clinging to life in the Mediterranean Sea.