700 migrants died in three Mediterranean shipwrecks last week

40 of them were children, including newborns

Rome: A week of shipwrecks and death in the Mediterranean culminated yesterday with harrowing testimony from migrant survivors, who said another 500 people including 40 children had drowned, bringing the number of feared dead to 700.

Rescuers help migrants board the Italian Navy ship after the boat they were aboard sunk. Pic/AP
Rescuers help migrants board the Italian Navy ship after the boat they were aboard sunk. Pic/AP

Toll tally
Brought to safety in the Italian ports of Taranto and Pozzallo, survivors told the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and Save the Children how their boat sank on Thursday morning after a high-seas drama which saw one woman decapitated. “We’ll never know the exact number, we’ll never know their identity, but survivors tell that over 500 human beings died,” Carlotta Sami, UNHRC spokeswoman, said on Twitter.

With some 100 people missing after a boat sank on Wednesday, and 45 bodies recovered from a wreck that happened on Friday, the UNHCR said it feared up to 700 people had drowned in the Mediterranean last week.

First wreck
Giovanna Di Benedetto, Save the Children’s spokesperson in Sicily, said, “The first boat, carrying some 500 people, was towing the second, which was carrying another 500. But the second boat began to sink. Some people tried to swim to the first boat, others held onto the rope linking the vessels.”

According to the survivors, the first boat’s Sudanese captain cut the rope, which snapped back and decapitated a woman. The second boat quickly sank, taking those packed tightly into the hold down with it.

The Sudanese was arrested on his arrival in Pozzallo along with three other suspected people traffickers. Those who survived told mediators the dead included “around 40 children, including many newborns”. “I saw my mother and 11-year old sister die,” Kidane from Eritrea (13), told the aid organisations. “There were bodies everywhere”.

All hail Italy
A bout of good weather has kicked off a fresh stream of boats attempting to cross from Libya to Italy. Some 70 dinghies and 10 boats had set off in the past week. 

13,000
The approximate number of migrants who were rescued by the EU ships last week 

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