Two children found dead in migrant boat sailing in Mediterranean

One woman still missing after 36 people found alive on boat, Italian coastguard says

Migrant survivors disembark on the tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy. AP
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Two children have been found dead on a migrant boat carrying nearly 40 people in the Mediterranean Sea, Italy’s coastguard said.

Rescuers are also searching for a woman believed to be missing from the boat.

A coastguard statement said 36 people were found alive on the vessel, which had reportedly been disabled in an explosion in the waters off of Malta.

It was not immediately known how the children, whose ages have not been released, died or where they came from.

Italian state TV said the migrants, including many from Sub-Saharan Africa, had sailed from the Tunisian port of Sfax.

A Tunisian fishing boat informed the coastguard that the migrants were in difficulty and were inside Malta’s search-and-rescue zone, the coastguard statement said.

Working with Maltese authorities, the coastguard dispatched a motorboat to the migrants' aid.

The statement said the fishing boat had told rescuers there had been an explosion on the vessel.

A coastguard aircraft and boat were searching for the woman who had been reported missing.

Doctors examining the migrants said several had suffered burns.

The survivors were brought to Lampedusa, a tiny Italian island south of Sicily, which has a residential centre for rescued migrants where initial documentation is performed before asylum requests can be filed.

Many of the migrants who reach Italy by sea from Africa, the Middle East or Asia — either on their own boats or aboard rescue vessels — are fleeing poverty, not war or persecution, and their asylum bids are rejected.

It is only the latest migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea, which tens of thousands attempt to cross every year in efforts to reach European shores.

Greece, Spain, Italy, Malta and Cyprus expect about 160,000 people to arrive on their shores this year.

Libya has in recent years become the dominant transit point for migrants from Africa and the Middle East.

Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders with six nations.

Updated: October 21, 2022, 7:55 PM