Italy: Migrant burns victims crossed Mediterranean after gas explosion

Italy: Migrant burns victims crossed Mediterranean after gas explosion
By Alasdair Sandford with AP, UNHCR
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Several African migrants are being treated in Lampedusa and Sicily after being injured in a gas explosion in Libya. They were refused treatment by human traffickers before they embarked on their journ


More horror stories have emerged from African migrants’ perilous journeys across the Mediterranean.

At least 20 have been treated in Lampedusa for severe burns, after an accident.

It happened in Libya before their boat set sail, but the people smugglers refused to call for help to avoid being caught.

“A gas cylinder exploded and killed several people and injured many others. The traffickers would not allow them to leave and reach the hospitals so they did not get treatment for a few days. And then they were put on a boat, in fact on a rubber dinghy. And when rescuers arrived they had spent two days at sea, but they were drifting away because the rubber dinghy was half deflated already,” said Barbara Molinario of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) which helped the burns victims after their high seas ordeal.

Lampedusa’s Chief of Health Services, Domenico Bartolo, said at least 10 of those in hospital were in a critical condition and might not survive.

The Italian Navy took others to hospitals in Sicily. One of the burns victims, a 25-year-old woman, died at sea during the journey from Libya.

The group that arrived on Lampedusa on Friday numbered about 70, mostly refugees.

In a separate incident coastguards in Sicily rescued a three-month-old baby of Somali origin.

An emergency evacuation operation was launched to get him to hospital after he suddenly became ill on board a merchant ship. The vessel had rescued the baby along with more than 90 other migrants as they crossed the Mediterranean sea.

Unprecedented numbers of migrants have been fleeing Libya in recent days, the traffickers taking advantage of good weather and the chaos reigning in the country.

Italian coastguards say more than 11,000 landed in Italy in six days.

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