Some 200 people remain unaccounted for from Wednesday’s shipwreck off Libya according to the final count from the Italian Navy, as hopes for anymore survivors fade.
A spokesman for the Italian Navy told Migrant Report that 373 people were rescued on Wednesday. Six people were evacuated by air to Italy already because they needed medical attention, while the remaining 367 are on board the Irish Navy Vessel, Le Niamh, headed for Palermo.
In all, 25 people have been confirmed dead after their bodies were recovered yesterday. The search continued overnight with at least five vessels patrolling a different stretch of sea around the disaster zone but no more survivors or bodies were recovered over those taken in yesterday.
Most of those vessels are now engaged with live rescue operations and the search effort is practically over. The number of people feared dead is still sketchy as information kept changing throughout the day yesterday even from official sources.
However, the Italian Navy confirmed that migrants who launched the May Day to the authorities in Catania on Wednesday at 9am (CET) said there were 600 people on board, which would leave some 202 people unaccounted for.
The tragedy happened around 1:00pm (CET) some 15 nautical miles off Zuwara, Libya. The boat overturned after the Le Niamh, approached it with two Rhibs. This created a rush to the side of the boat and it overturned.
The Italian coastguard vessel Mimbelli sent a helicopter to drop life rafts on the site and it is this quick response that saved so many lives. However, the open question concerns how many people were in the boat’s hold.
“Unfortunately, we know through experience that the people who are in the hold have practically no time for escape when a boat capsizes. The hatch is normally no bigger than 1m squared. Unless you happen to be the one sitting right next to that opening, there is little chance of getting out,” MOAS director Martin Xuereb told Migrant Report in a phone call from the Phoenix.
At the time of the phone call (9am CET) the Phoenix was on its way to rescue some 200 people from two rubber dinghies spotted with the vessel’s drone. Earlier, the Italian Navy’s Fiorillo rescued some 390 migrants from a wooden boat.
With the present favourable weather conditions, the likeliness is that more boats will leave between today and tomorrow.
The Italian navy was not in a position to give details on the survivors, but said most were from Syria. The Irish Defence Forces said in a statement on Wednesday that the 367 people they had on board included 342 men, 12 women and 13 children.