Gambians are among sixty-four people who have died after an overcrowded rubber dinghy launched from Libya sank in the Mediterranean on Saturday, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has said.
The Italian coastguard rescued 86 people from the boat hours after it sustained a puncture and started sinking on Saturday morning. A girl survived after clinging to the body of her mother, witnesses said.
“We saved 86 migrants,” Maria Rita Agliozzo, an Order of Malta doctor on the Italian coastguard vessel, told Radio Radicale. “We did many resuscitations. We resuscitated two children – a two-year-old and a three-year-old – and also a woman.”
Rescuers pulled dozens of people to safety, some of whom had managed to stay onboard the half-submerged dinghy. The bodies of eight women were recovered.
The IOM and UNHCR said the migrants came from the Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Cameroon and Nigeria.
The deaths represent the first large-scale migrant tragedy of 2018 in the Mediterranean. A total of 2,832 migrants died on the central Mediterranean route between Libya and Italy in 2017, down from 4,581 in 2016.
The number of migrants who reached Italy in 2017 was 119,310, down from 181,436 in 2016.