Dramatic scenes as dozens saved from migrant shipwrecks by Italy

A migrant stranded on a rocky reef on the tiny Italian southern island of Lampedusa, Sicily is plucked to safety by helicopter.
A migrant stranded on a rocky reef on the tiny Italian southern island of Lampedusa, Sicily is plucked to safety by helicopter. Copyright Italian Alpine Rescue via AP
By Euronews with AP
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A child and two pregnant women who had been stranded for nearly two days were among those rescued.


Dozens of migrants were rescued by Italy as they foundered in the sea or clung to a rocky reef on Sunday after three boats launched from northern Africa shipwrecked in rough waters in separate incidents over the weekend. 

Survivors said some 30 other migrants were missing from capsized vessels.

In a risky operation, two helicopters battled strong winds to pluck them to safety, including a child and two pregnant women, who had been stranded for nearly two days on a steep, rocky reef of tiny Lampedusa island. 

They had been clinging to the jagged rocks after their boat smashed into the reef late Friday.

All 34 migrants who endured two nights on the reef were rescued, said Federico Catania, a spokesperson for Alpine assistance group. 

Migrants, some wearing shorts and flip-flops, clung to their rescuers as they were pulled up to safety. A firefighters' helicopter also carried out some of the rescues.

The two women, including one in an advanced stage of pregnancy, were examined by medical personnel, said Maria Ylenia Di Paola, a nurse on Lampedusa. 

She told Italian state TV that the women were dehydrated and cold, “but above all they were psychologically tried.”

Meanwhile, survivors of two boats that capsized on Saturday some 23 nautical miles south-west of Lampedusa told rescuers about 30 fellow migrants were missing. The Coastguard said that in two operations it saved 57 migrants and recovered the bodies of a child and of a woman.

Coastguard members lowered a wide rope ladder and helped pull up migrants into their rescue vessel, rocked by wind-whipped waves. 

Before the two bodies were recovered on Saturday, a total of 1,814 migrants were known to have died in 2023 while attempting the Mediterranean crossing to Italy in boats launched from Tunisia or Libya, said Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesperson for the UN migration agency IOM.

So many had made the crossing in recent days that 2,450 migrants were currently housed at Lampedusa's temporary residence, which has a capacity of about 400, said Ignazio Schintu, an official of the Italian Red Cross which runs the centre. 

Once the winds slacken and the seas turn calm, Italy will resume ferrying hundreds of them to Sicily to ease the overcrowding, he told state TV.

Among the homelands of some of the rescued migrants are from Senegal, Gambia, Cameroon and the Ivory Coast, Schintu said.

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