BARCELONA – Six people died after a Europe-bound rubber boat carrying 116 migrants and asylum-seekers fell apart in the central Mediterranean Sea, a Spanish humanitarian group said Wednesday.
The Open Arms rescue ship had been searching for the boat in distress for hours before finally locating it Wednesday morning in international waters north of Libya. The NGO had just finished distributing life vests and masks to the passengers to begin transferring them to safety when the flimsy boat split in two, throwing them into cold waters.
Rescuers pulled out 111 people, including two infants, alive and recovered five bodies. But one of the two infants, a six-month-old girl, died after being brought on board the rescue ship, Open Arms tweeted on their official account.
Open Arms spokesperson Laura Lanuza told The AP that the NGO has asked Italian and Maltese maritime authorities for the immediate evacuation of six people in serious condition, including two babies and their mothers and a pregnant woman. Lanuza said the NGO had already rescued 88 migrants the night before and was headed to a third distress call.
Wednesday's shipwreck was the second recorded this week in waters north of Libya, a key transit point for migrants from Africa and the Middle East. On Tuesday another 13 migrants died, including a child, the UN said.
So far this year more than 575 people have perished in the Central Mediterranean trying to reach Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration.