Every human life is precious and sacred; saving a life is like saving the whole of humanity. (Al Quran 5:32/33)
By Crispian Balmer | ROME
More than 5,000 migrants were saved on Tuesday and Wednesday off the Libyan coast and 28 bodies recovered, bringing the total number of people rescued this week to more than 11,000, Italy’s coast guard said.
More than 20 people were reported to have suffocated in the hold of one overloaded fishing boat, bringing the total death toll for Monday and Tuesday to 50.
Italian officials said three women saved on Monday had given birth over the past 24 hours on a coast guard vessel that was bringing some 1,000 refugees to Sicily. The women and their three children were all reported to be in good health.
The coast guard said the 4,655 migrants rescued on Tuesday were taken from 33 overcrowded boats, including 27 rubber dinghies and one wooden boat that was believed to have been carrying around 1,000 people.
More than 6,000 migrants were rescued on Monday, but on Wednesday the number fell sharply to about 368 from six different boats, the coast guard said.
A photographer working for Agence France-Presse, who was aboard a ship chartered by a Spanish non-governmental organization to help with the rescue missions, was quoted as saying he had counted 22 bodies on that boat. He told Italian media he thought other corpses were still in the hold.
At its closest, Libya is 290 km (180 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa and people smugglers have taken advantage of the chaos in the north African state to use it as their main staging post in the region for journeys to Europe.