Seven migrants have died and some 280 have been rescued after they were discovered in a packed wooden boat off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa, the Italian Coast Guard said Tuesday.
Three people were dead when the Coast Guard arrived for the rescue in rough waters, and a further four died of hypothermia after being transported to the hospital in Lampedusa. Most of the migrants were from Egypt and Bangladesh
Three Coast Guard rescue boats and one from Italy's financial police participated in the rescue.
The NGO Alarm Phone, which forwards rescue calls from smugglers' boats packed with migrants to authorities, said on Twitter that it took Italian rescue boats six hours to reach the migrants in distress. “Their deaths could have been prevented,” the group said.
Arrivals in Italy this year are significantly higher than the past two winters, totaling 2,051 through early Tuesday, compared with 872 in the same period last year and 835 a year before that. Arrivals typically peak in the summer months.
The International Organization for Migration has marked 2021 as the deadliest for the central Mediterranean crossing route since 2018, with at least 1,315 dead. Often bodies are not recovered and the deaths are presumed from accounts of survivors. More than 23,383 migrants are missing and presumed dead in the Mediterranean since 2014, 80% of those in the central Mediterranean.