Rescuers Scramble After Migrant Boat Spills Hundreds

Smugglers' ship reportedly carrying 600 capsizes off Libya
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 5, 2015 10:00 AM CDT
Rescuers Scramble After Migrant Boat Spills Hundreds
Volunteers lay flowers on coffins with the bodies of migrants from LE Niamh, a patrol vessel of the Irish Naval Service, in Sicily, Italy, Wednesday, July 29, 2015. LE Niamh rescued 435 migrants and recovered 14 bodies.   (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi)

A fishing boat carrying an estimated 600 migrants capsized today in the Mediterranean north of Libya, and at least 150 people were spotted in the sea, Irish military officials said. The Irish naval vessel Le Niamh was one of several ships requested by the Italian coast guard to speed to the rescue of the overturned boat shortly before noon, Irish Capt. Donal Gallagher said. "An Italian (military) helicopter has dropped additional life rafts" into the sea, Gallagher said. At least 100 migrants have been pulled from the ocean so far, reports CNN. Says a rep for Doctors Without Borders, which has a boat at the scene, the group "can confirm that there are many confirmed deaths at the scene but cannot provide additional information at the moment."

Also involved in the rescue was an Italian vessel. Non-governmental organizations often join in migrant sea rescue operations, which are coordinated by Italy's coast guard and are now under the umbrella of a European Union task force known as Triton. The distressed vessel was reported to be about 75 miles northwest of Tripoli, Libya. Officials have yet to determine what caused the capsizing. The International Organization for Migration, a human rights group, has said nearly 2,000 migrants are believed to have lost their lives at sea since the start of this year, but the exact toll of dead is not known. (More migrants stories.)

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