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African migrant boat sinks off Italian coast

Rome, May 13 (): At least 14 people were killed when a ship carrying migrants sank about 100 miles off southern Italy on Monday, the Italian Navy said. The report said 400 people were on board and 200 people had been rescued.

The ship sank at some 100 nautical miles (185 kilometres) south of Lampedusa island, southernmost point of Italy and around 1100 GMT. The region is closer to Libya than to Italian shores.

The Navy said several merchant ships and two Italian coast guard vessels were used in the rescue operation. Further, a helicopter is also deployed for rescue operation in the zone. It is not clear how many other bodies or survivors might remain in the water. The survivors are getting medical assistance.

The sinking had occurred a day after when a boat carrying 130 migrants overturned off the coast of Libya. At least 24 people died in the incident. Fifty-two people were rescued and at least 54 remain missing, quoted Ayoub Bilqassem, the spokesman for Libya’s navy to the Associated Press.

Last October, an instable boat, carrying nearly 500 people, mostly Eritreans, sank near Lampedusa, killing at least 366 people. The incident brought attention on the anxious efforts of migrants, many escaping war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa, to reach Europe. Earlier this month, 800,000 asylum searchers were “poised” to set off for Europe from North Africa.

Libya has been a springboard for Africans looking for a better life in Europe over a long time and the number of illegal departures from its shores is also increasing.

In the first few months of this year, over 25,000 migrants have reached Italy, with the breakdown of order in huge parts of Libya leaving authorities stressing to fight the groups that control the illegal migrant traffic.

Libyan Navy spokesman Col. Ayoub Qassem said there had been an unexpected wave of illegal immigration these days and they were still not clear about the reason why this had happened.