Migrant Bodies In Mediterranean Tragedy Arrive in Malta
Overloaded and listing boat collided with rescue vessel; captain and crewman detained
CATANIA, Italy — Manuela Mesco reports: Last week, people smugglers near Tripoli loaded almost 900 Africans and Middle Easterners onto a rickety, wooden fishing boat, turning away as many as 200 others who had hoped to board and make the passage to Italy. The migrants had endured weeks or months of deprivation, with some detained and beaten for months by the smugglers.
“We had to literally slalom among the corpses. They were everywhere.”
— Enrico Vitiello, a 22-year-old medical assistant who was aboard one of the rescue vessels
Their ordeal became a tragedy as the ship sank on the weekend, leaving an estimated 850 people dead in what now appears to be the gravest single episode in the mass exodus of migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe.
“Only 28 people—all male—were pulled from the water alive, along with 24 bodies. One young man managed to save himself because he had learned how to swim not long before departing for his journey.”
The 66-foot boat was dangerously overloaded, with many on board—especially women and children—squeezing into the lower decks for the journey. Mohammed Ali Malek, a 27-year-old Tunisian, took the helm and headed for Italy.
On Saturday, about 60 miles from the Libyan coast, the boat issued a distress call—possibly in a true emergency, possibly using a common practice for drawing rescue vessels to take migrants to Italy. Officials at the Italian Coast Guard command center in Rome, consulting a giant screen that tracks the location of all private and official vessels in the area, immediately ordered the King Jacob, a Portuguese merchant ship, to the scene.
“We found a man waving and screaming. Then we found another one in the water. We didn’t know if he was dead or alive. When we pulled him onto the boat, he just started to cry.”
— Giuseppe Pomilla, a doctor on the scene
As it approached, according to Coast Guard officials, the migrants rushed to one side of their decrepit boat, making it list dangerously. Around the same time, the two vessels collided and the migrants’ boat quickly tipped over, according to accounts from survivors and Italian prosecutors. It sank so quickly that hundreds of people crammed into the lower decks had no chance to escape.
The Italians quickly dispatched 17 other vessels, including Coast Guard cutters, Maltese Navy ships and fishing boats, to the scene to search for survivors. They found wooden fragments, floating life jackets, an oil slick, and many bodies.
“The deaths, if confirmed, further establish the Mediterranean as the most lethal migrant route in the world. “
“We had to literally slalom among the corpses,” Enrico Vitiello, a 22-year-old medical assistant who was aboard one of the rescue vessels, said on Tuesday. “They were everywhere.”
Giuseppe Pomilla, a doctor, reached the scene around 1 a.m. on Sunday to hear “desperate screaming” from people in the water. “We found a man waving and screaming,” he said. “Then we found another one in the water. We didn’t know if he was dead or alive. When we pulled him onto the boat, he just started to cry.” The survivors had spent hours in the water before being rescued, he added.
“An estimated 3,200 died in the crossing last year, and this year’s toll has already reached 1,600.”
Only 28 people—all male—were pulled from the water alive, along with 24 bodies. One young man managed to save himself because he had learned how to swim not long before departing for his journey, according to statements he gave to workers at the International Organization for Migration. Four of the survivors were minors, two from Somalia and two from Bengal, said aid group Save the Children. Italian prosecutors estimate that about 850 others drowned, about half of them Eritreans, the rest Syrians, Somalis and others. Read the rest of this entry »
The Egyptians, dressed in orange jump suits, were beheaded after being forced down on the ground on a beach. An early caption in the video says the location is “Wilayat Tarabulus by the Mediterranean Sea,” which suggests that it was filmed near Tripoli.
“This undeniably means that the group now views Christian populations as not only targets but also part of the bigger ‘Crusader plot,’ not separate from the US-led coalition or aggressors. The group’s message is highly intimidating and it somewhat challenges the Western nations to intervene and save the Christians as it intervened to save the Yazidis and others.”
Each of the victims, who are all male, is paired with a masked, knife-wielding terrorist and, after a brief statement by the ISIS leader, they are all beheaded.
— Russell Moore (@drmoore) February 15, 2015
The video is called “A Message signed with blood to the nation of the cross” and was released by the group’s Al-Hayat Media Center, according to Flashpoint Intelligence, a global security firm and NBC News consultant. Read the rest of this entry »