Italy: Migrant Boat Capsizes, Second in Two Days

ROME (Reuters) —
People ask for help after their boat overturned off the Libyan coast Thursday, May 26, 2016.  A migrant boat sank off Libya's coast Thursday with about 100 passengers on board. Officials said 88 people had been rescued and that some 20 bodies were spotted in the sea. (EUNAVFORMED via AP)
People ask for help after their boat overturned off the Libyan coast Thursday. (EUNAVFORMED via AP)

A migrant boat capsized in the Mediterranean on Thursday, an Italian coastguard spokesman said, and 88 people have been rescued while the number of possible dead is unknown. It was the second shipwreck in two days, after five were confirmed to have died when a large fishing boat flipped over in the sea on Wednesday.

Boat arrivals in Italy have risen sharply this week amid warm weather and calm seas, and about 20 rescue operations are currently under way, the spokesman said.

Between 20 and 30 people are feared dead, Ansa news agency reported, without saying where it got the information, while the coastguard declined to estimate how many may have died.

“We don’t know how many people were on board,” the coastguard spokesman said.

An aircraft from the European Union’s Sophia mission to fight people smuggling spotted the overturned vessel and called in the coastguard to assist in the rescue.

The coastguard has coordinated the rescue of around 900 migrants in seven different operations on Thursday. That brings the total of migrants who have been rescued since Monday to more than 7,000.

Through Tuesday, total sea arrivals in Italy had fallen by 9 percent this year, to 37,743, according to the Interior Ministry, but the country’s migrant shelters are already under pressure to house 115,507 migrants, about twice as many as two years ago. Some 650 migrants are scheduled to arrive in the Sicilian city of Porto Empedocle later on Thursday, including the five dead bodies recovered by the Italian navy on Wednesday.

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