More than 200 feared dead in sinking of migrant boat

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Hundreds Feared Dead in Migrant Boat Capsizing

Hopes faded of finding more survivors on Thursday from a shipwreck in which 200 migrants are feared drowned, as rescue ships were called to the aid of more migrant boats in the same area of the Mediterranean.

"We are witnessing a genocide caused by European selfishness," said Palermo mayor Leoluca Orlando as the Irish navy ship LE Niamh docked in the port carrying some 370 survivors of Wednesday's disaster and 25 corpses, including three children.

Orlando, speaking on Italian television as hearses arrived to take the bodies away, called on European leaders to do more to prevent such disasters and to allow more refugees to re-settle in their countries.

After the survivors disembarked, some were escorted back on board to see if they could identify the dead children.

Police said they had detained five men suspected of having piloted the boat that overturned on Wednesday and of having had a role in trafficking the migrants.

See photos from the scene:

19 PHOTOS
Migrant boat capsizes, Libya to Italy
See Gallery
More than 200 feared dead in sinking of migrant boat
Migrants eat after disembarking from the Irish military vessel Naimh after its arrival in the port of Palermo on August 6, 2015, with 367 survivors aboard and 25 coffins, following a rescue operation at sea of a boat carrying over 600 migrants that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. Survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Libya in which some 200 migrants were feared drowned were being brought to safety in Sicily on August 6, as tales emerged of the 'horrific' moment the boat overturned. AFP PHOTO / MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO (Photo credit should read MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman smiles after disembark from the Irish military vessel Naimh after its arrival in the port of Palermo on August 6, 2015, with 367 survivors aboard and 25 coffins, following a rescue operation at sea of a boat carrying over 600 migrants that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. Survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Libya in which some 200 migrants were feared drowned were being brought to safety in Sicily on August 6, as tales emerged of the 'horrific' moment the boat overturned. AFP PHOTO / MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO (Photo credit should read MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
A suspected smuggler is helped off the Irish military vessel Naimh after its arrival in the port of Palermo on August 6, 2015, with 367 survivors aboard and 25 coffins, following a rescue operation at sea of a boat carrying over 600 migrants that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. Survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Libya in which some 200 migrants were feared drowned were being brought to safety in Sicily on August 6, as tales emerged of the 'horrific' moment the boat overturned. AFP PHOTO / MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO (Photo credit should read MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Migrants queue after disembarking from the Irish military vessel Naimh after its arrival in the port of Palermo on August 6, 2015, with 367 survivors aboard and 25 coffins, following a rescue operation at sea of a boat carrying over 600 migrants that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. Survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Libya in which some 200 migrants were feared drowned were being brought to safety in Sicily on August 6, as tales emerged of the 'horrific' moment the boat overturned. AFP PHOTO / MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO (Photo credit should read MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
A man smiles after disembark from the Irish military vessel Naimh after its arrival in the port of Palermo on August 6, 2015, with 367 survivors aboard and 25 coffins, following a rescue operation at sea of a boat carrying over 600 migrants that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. Survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Libya in which some 200 migrants were feared drowned were being brought to safety in Sicily on August 6, as tales emerged of the 'horrific' moment the boat overturned. AFP PHOTO / MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO (Photo credit should read MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Rescuers carry a coffin off the Irish military vessel Naimh after its arrival in the port of Palermo on August 6, 2015, with 367 survivors aboard and 25 coffins, following a rescue operation at sea of a boat carrying over 600 migrants that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. Survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Libya in which some 200 migrants were feared drowned were being brought to safety in Sicily on August 6, as tales emerged of the 'horrific' moment the boat overturned. AFP PHOTO / MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO (Photo credit should read MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Migrants stand on the Irish military vessel Naimh as it arrives in the port of Palermo on August 6, 2015, with 367 survivors aboard and 25 coffins after rescuing them at sea where a boat carrying over 600 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. Survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Libya in which some 200 migrants were feared drowned were being brought to safety in Sicily on August 6, as tales emerged of the 'horrific' moment the boat overturned. AFP PHOTO / MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO (Photo credit should read MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Migrants stand on the Irish military vessel Naimh as it arrives in the port of Palermo on August 6, 2015, with 367 survivors aboard and 25 coffins after rescuing them at sea where a boat carrying over 600 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. Survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Libya in which some 200 migrants were feared drowned were being brought to safety in Sicily on August 6, as tales emerged of the 'horrific' moment the boat overturned. AFP PHOTO / MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO (Photo credit should read MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Migrants wait to disembark from the Irish Navy vessel Le Niamh, in the harbor of Palermo, Sicily, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, after they were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea when their boat capsized. The Italian coast guard and Irish navy said at least 367 people were saved, although 25 bodies also were found, as many other are feared to have died during the capsizing of the fishing boat in the latest human smuggling tragedy. (AP Photo/Alessandro Fucarini)
Migrants disembark from the Irish Navy vessel Le Niamh, in the harbor of Palermo, Sicily, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, after they were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea when their boat capsized. The Italian coast guard and Irish navy said at least 367 people were saved, although 25 bodies also were found, as many other are feared to have died during the capsizing of the fishing boat in the latest human smuggling tragedy. (AP Photo/Alessandro Fucarini)
Coffins with the bodies of dead migrants are disembarked from the Irish Navy vessel Le Niamh, in the harbor of Palermo, Sicily, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, after they were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea when their boat capsized. The Italian coast guard and Irish navy said at least 367 people were saved, although 25 bodies also were found, as many other are feared to have died during the capsizing of the fishing boat in the latest human smuggling tragedy. (AP Photo/Alessandro Fucarini)
Migrants wait to disembark from the Irish Navy vessel Le Niamh, in the harbor of Palermo, Sicily, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, after they were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea when their boat capsized. The Italian coast guard and Irish navy said at least 367 people were saved, although 25 bodies also were found, as many other are feared to have died during the capsizing of the fishing boat in the latest human smuggling tragedy. (AP Photo/Alessandro Fucarini)
In this photo taken on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 and made available Thursday, Aug. 6, migrants climb onto a rescue dinghy as rescuers approach it on the scene of the capsizing and sinking of a fishing boat in the Mediterranean sea off Libya. The Italian coast guard and Irish navy said at least 367 people were saved, although 25 bodies also were found as many other are feared to have died during the capsizing of the fishing boat in the latest human smuggling tragedy. (Italian Navy VIA AP Photo)
In this photo taken on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 and made available Thursday, Aug. 6, an helicopter and a rescue boat work on the scene of the capsizing and sinking of a fishing boat crowded with migrants in the Mediterranean sea off Libya, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. The Italian coast guard and Irish navy said at least 367 people were saved, although 25 bodies also were found in the latest human smuggling tragedy. (Marta Soszynska/MSF VIA AP Photo)
In this photo taken on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015 and made available Thursday, Aug. 6, a child receives assistance after being rescued on the scene of the capsizing and sinking of a fishing boat in the Mediterranean sea off Libya. The Italian coast guard and Irish navy said at least 367 people were saved, although 25 bodies also were found as many other are feared to have died during the capsizing of the fishing boat in the latest human smuggling tragedy. (Italian Navy VIA AP Photo)
Migrants wait to disembark from the Irish Navy vessel Le Niamh, in the harbor of Palermo, Sicily, Italy, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, after they were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea when their boat capsized. The Italian coast guard and Irish navy said at least 367 people were saved, although 25 bodies also were found, as many other are feared to have died during the capsizing of the fishing boat in the latest human smuggling tragedy. (AP Photo/Alessandro Fucarini)
Migrants stand on the Irish military vessel Naimh as it arrives in the port of Palermo on August 6, 2015, with 367 survivors aboard and 25 coffins after rescuing them at sea where a boat carrying over 600 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. Survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Libya in which some 200 migrants were feared drowned were being brought to safety in Sicily on August 6, as tales emerged of the 'horrific' moment the boat overturned. AFP PHOTO / MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO (Photo credit should read MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
Migrants disembark from the Irish military vessel Naimh after its arrival in the port of Palermo on August 6, 2015, with 367 survivors aboard and 25 coffins after rescuing them at sea where a boat carrying over 600 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. Survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Libya in which some 200 migrants were feared drowned were being brought to safety in Sicily on August 6, as tales emerged of the 'horrific' moment the boat overturned. AFP PHOTO / MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO (Photo credit should read MARCELLO PATERNOSTRO/AFP/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Vessels from the Italian and Irish navies and humanitarian agency Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) saved about 400 people from the fishing boat, thought to have been carrying up to 600 people, mostly Syrians fleeing their country's civil war.

They found no more survivors after scouring the waters overnight. Italian vessels continued to search the area on Thursday, a coastguard spokesman said.

Seas were very calm on Thursday, perfect conditions to attempt the sea crossing, said a Reuters photographer aboard the privately funded Phoenix, a vessel run by MSF and the Migrant Offshore Aid Station.

The Phoenix was responding to a distress call for a boat carrying about 500 people, he said. The coastguard picked up 381 on Thursday morning, while an Italy navy ship took 101 from a large rubber boat, and the MSF vessel Argos rescued 87, according to their Twitter accounts.

Wednesday's tragedy occurred when the boat flipped over as the LE Niamh approached, probably because desperate passengers surged to one side as they spotted the ship.

"What happened here was because the boat was so overloaded, and the conditions were such that the boat started taking on water and it listed to one side, capsized and sank, all in the space of two minutes," Irish Defence Minister Simon Coveney said on Irish state radio RTE on Thursday.

The Irish ship is part of the European Union Triton mission, which was expanded after up to 800 migrants drowned in a shipwreck in April.

DEADLY BORDER AREA

The Mediterranean Sea is the world's most deadly border area for migrants. More than 2,000 migrants and refugees have died so far this year trying to reach Europe by boat, compared with 3,279 during the whole of last year, the International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday.

People-smugglers, mostly based in Libya and charging thousands of dollars for passage, have sent more than 90,000 migrants by sea to Italy so far this year, the UN refugee agency says. Italy took in 170,000 in 2014.

This summer's mass arrivals in both Italy and Greece show the crisis is worsening. Immigrants fleeing violence and poverty at home continue to pour in from Africa and the Middle East.

Many of the newcomers look to move swiftly to wealthier northern Europe, including to Britain from Calais, France.

In April, a 20-metre (66-foot) vessel capsized as it approached a merchant ship that had come to its assistance, and up to 900 people were killed. It was the deadliest shipwreck in the Mediterranean for decades and a symbol of Europe's long-running migrant crisis.

(Writing by Steve Scherer and Philip Pullella; additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin and Darrin Zammit Lupi aboard the Phoenix; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners