Scores found dead in Mediterranean migrant boat

  • 27/08/2015
A boat full of migrants is seen next to Swedish ship Poseidon (Reuters)
A boat full of migrants is seen next to Swedish ship Poseidon (Reuters)

At least 55 dead bodies have been discovered on three overcrowded migrant boats in the Mediterranean, the Italian coastguard says.

Almost all of the victims - 51 - were found in the hold of a wooden boat found drifting precariously off the Libyan coast on Wednesday (local time) by Swedish coastguard vessel the Poseidon.

Media reports said they had choked to death on gas fumes from the small motor boat.

The Italian coastguard, which co-ordinates rescue efforts in the area, said some 3000 other migrants had been rescued during ten operations over the course of the day, including more than 500 people picked up by the Poseidon.

On August 15, the Italian navy discovered the bodies of 49 migrants asphyxiated in the hold of a people smuggler's boat.

Survivors later testified that the victims had been locked below deck and constrained.

More than 2300 migrants have died at sea this year during attempts to reach Europe, almost invariably on overcrowded boats chartered by people smugglers.

Calm weather this week appears to have encouraged the smugglers to get as many people as possible out to sea, knowing that, in most cases, they will be picked up by Italian or international boats and taken to southern Italian ports.