Lampedusa: Seven dead, nine missing after migrant boat capsizes off Italian islandComments
Italian authorities are searching for at least nine missing migrants after a boat capsized off the coast of Lampedusa.
At least seven people are confirmed to have died in the shipwreck after rescue services recovered their bodies from the sea.
Another 46 people were rescued and several Italian Coast Guard patrol boats are searching for the missing, including several children.
The boat is believed to have overturned just as rescue crews arrived off the Sicilian island.
Two coast guard ships had responded to a distress call from a migrant boat around 11 kilometres off Lampedusa on Wednesday.
As the rescuers neared, the passengers "suddenly shifted" their positions, likely causing the boat to flip, a statement said.
An estimated 60 people were packed onto the 8-metre boat, Italy’s coast guard added.
The shipwreck, so close to the Italian coast, has caused outrage among local authorities and the mayor of Lampedusa, Toto Martello, has called for a meeting with the Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi.
"This umpteenth tragedy in the Mediterranean is heartbreaking, what more needs to happen to make Italy and Europe understand that this is not the way forward?" said Martello.
The capsize follows a night of numerous landings on Lampedusa: more than 250 migrants arrived on the small Italian island in the early hours of Wednesday.
So far this year, more than 19,000 people have reached Italian shores, three times as many as this time last year, according to Interior Ministry statistics.
Rescue NGOs say that around 700 people are missing or have died while trying to reach Europe across the central Mediterranean.