Boat carrying many migrants capsizes off Lampedusa

Associated Press

ROME (AP) — A boat carrying an estimated 200 migrants capsized Friday off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa where a shipwreck last week left more than 300 dead. Rescue crews reported seeing bodies in the water.

The capsizing occurred some 65 miles (105 kilometers) southeast of Lampedusa but in waters where Malta has search and rescue responsibilities. Malta requested Italy's help, and the coast guard immediately sent a patrol boat to the area, said Italian coast guard spokesman Marco Di Milla.

A Maltese armed forces aircraft spotted the wreckage and a Maltese patrol boat was the first on scene, a Malta government spokesman said on customary condition of anonymity. Maltese rescue crews reported spotting bodies in the water.

Last week, a ship carrying some 500 people capsized off Lampedusa, killing more than 300 people. Only 155 survived. The deaths prompted calls for the European Union to do more to better patrol the southern Mediterranean and prevent such tragedies.

Lampedusa, a tiny speck of an island closer to Africa than the Italian mainland, is the destination of choice of smugglers ferrying migrants from Libya or Tunisia to Europe. They usually charge more than 1,000 euro ($1,355) a head and cram the migrants onto boats that routinely run into trouble and require rescue.

During a visit to Lampedusa this week, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso promised Italy some 30 million euro in EU funds to better care for newly arrived migrants, and Itlalian officials pledged to put the issue on the agenda of an upcoming European Union summit.

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