Friday 20th October, 2017
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20 refugees drown off Libya's coast

20 refugees drown off Libya's coast

At least 20 people, including young chil­dren, have died after their vessel cap­sized off Libya’s coast, the Italian coast­guard says.

About 200 people fell off the overloaded ves­sel that was just 20 nautical miles (37km) in the Mediterranean Sea from Libya when the acci­dent occurred on Wednesday.

The crew of the Phoenix aid boat, chartered by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), had begun the rescue and were distributing lifejackets when many of those on deck fell into the water, perhaps knocked off bal­ance by a wave. “It’s not a scene from a horror movie, it’s a real-life tragedy that is taking place today at the gates of Europe,” said Chris Catram­bone, MOAS co-founder, who was aboard the Phoenix.

With the help of an Italian coastguard ship and several commercial ships, rescuers raced to drag as many people as possible from the water, while a helicopter and military aircraft dropped lifeboats.

The incident was one of 15 rescue operations under way on Wednesday off Libya’s Mediter­ranean coast.