LIBYA – The Italian coast guard confirmed Sunday that a boat carrying over 40 migrants capsized off the Libyan coast as a cargo ship tried to save them.
“During the rescue operations by the motor vessel… the boat capsized during the transfer of the migrants: 17 people were rescued and recovered by the vessel while approximately 30 migrants were missing,” the coastguard said in a statement.
A hotline used by migrants in distress, Alarm Phone, alerted Rome’s rescue coordination center on Saturday that the boat was present, along with Malta and Libya.
Earlier on Saturday, the group said migrants drowned off Benghazi, adding that it had alerted the Italian authorities about a boat encountering difficulties off the northwest coast.
A German NGO, Sea-Watch, reported on Saturday that its reconnaissance plane had spotted a “dangerously loaded migrant boat” sailing in rough waters.
After receiving an assistance request from Libya’s Coast Guard, Rome’s rescue coordination center sent three nearby merchant vessels toward the migrants’ boat.
Due to bad weather, the vessel reported problems performing a rescue.
In southern Italy, 76 migrants were killed when their boat sank two weeks ago.
As a result of accusations that Italian maritime authorities failed to respond appropriately to the tragic incident, the Italian judiciary opened an investigation into the incident.
Italy was shocked by the incident, which prompted fierce criticism of the right-wing government of Giorgia Meloni.