An Italian student holds a paper boat reading "How many tombs without names in Lampedusa, No to Bossi Fini" in reference to the earlier tragedy off Lampedusa island where at least 311 immigrants drowned. Photo: AFP
A migrant boat carrying more than 200 people sank south of Lampedusa, Italy, the second such tragedy in the area this month.
Dead bodies were spotted about 60 to 70 miles off the island by the Italian Navy when helicopters arrived to drop flotation devices for the survivors, Enrico Pacioni, a spokesman for the Navy, said today by telephone.
A naval vessel arrived at the site and was pulling survivors from the water and a second ship was on its way, he said.
There were about 50 dead, including about 10 children, Ansa news service reported, without citing anyone.
The island of Lampedusa, about halfway between Sicily and the Tunisian coast, is a common destination for undocumented migrants seeking entry into the European Union. Last week, at least 310 people died after their ship capsized on its way to Lampedusa, a tragedy that was memorialized by an Oct. 9 visit to the island by Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
The latest tragedy is ‘‘a dramatic new confirmation of an emergency situation,’’ Letta said today in a statement distributed by his spokesman.
Letta set up a 190 million-euro ($258 million) fund at the Interior Ministry to deal with immigration problems, his cabinet said after an Oct. 9 meeting. The EU will give Italy an extra 30 million euros this year to help it with refugees, Barroso said.
Rescue efforts are still under way and a count of survivors and deaths can’t be made until they are completed, Pacioni said. The boat’s destination is thought to have been Lampedusa, while its point of departure was unknown, he said.