Italy migrant boat capsizes near Lampedusa, over 100 dead

The boat tragedy was triggered after an engine failure prompted the passengers to light a small fire to attract the attention of the coast guard, which later spread into a large fire, said Lampedusa Mayor Giusi Nicolini.

Updated: Oct 03, 2013, 22:52 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Rome: A migrant boat carrying over 500 migrants coming from Libya caught fire and capsized near the island of Lampedusa off the coasts of Sicily, drowning over 100 people and injuring dozens of other people, Italian Coast Guard said Thursday.

The boat tragedy was triggered after an engine failure prompted the passengers to light a small fire to attract the attention of the coast guard, which later spread into a large fire, said Lampedusa Mayor Giusi Nicolini.

The fire caused people to panic and the boat flipped over. Among the dead were a young child and pregnant woman, said the Mayor.
According to the UN, all those on the boat were Eritreans coming from Libya.

The rescue operation is going on and more than 160 people have been rescued so far.

Describing the situation at the site, the Mayor of Lampedusa said that the survivors were in a state of shock.

"It`s horrific, like a cemetery, they are still bringing them out," she told reporters.

Lampedusa is an Italian island lying between Tunisia and Sicily and is a major entry point to Europe, especially for illegal migrants who seek asylum in the European Union.