ROME (AP) – Seven migrants have died and some 280 have been rescued after they were discovered in a packed wooden boat off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa, the Italian Coast Guard said yesterday.
Three people were dead when the Coast Guard arrived for the rescue in rough waters, and a further four died of hypothermia after being transported to the hospital in Lampedusa.
Most of the migrants were from Egypt and Bangladesh.
Three Coast Guard rescue boats and one from Italy’s financial police participated in the rescue.
The NGO Alarm Phone, which forwards rescue calls from smugglers’ boats packed with migrants to authorities, said on Twitter that it took Italian rescue boats six hours to reach the migrants in distress. “Their deaths could have been prevented,” the group said.
Arrivals in Italy this year are significantly higher than the past two winters, totalling 2,051 through early yesterday, compared with 872 in the same period last year.