At least 24 African migrants including two young Nigerians drowned on Monday in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach Europe aboard small Libyan boats.
6,065 others including expectant Nigerian women and their families were rescued by several boats owned by the Italian coastguard and international charities, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Save the Children.
417 of the badly burnt survivors, including 92 children and 70 women, were mostly Nigerians and other West Africans.
They were passengers on board four small, overcrowded dinghies which broke down about 20 miles from the Libyan coast while attempting to make the two-day journey to Italy without adequate fuel.
About 94 of them barely alive – men, women (several pregnant) and children – saturated with fuel, burnt skin and falling from their limbs, were rescued by a ship, Dignity 1, operated by MSF.
The migrants told British newspaper, The Times, that three hours into their journey from Western Libya, they heard a crack as one side of the overcrowded dinghy snapped, throwing 35 people into the sea.
Two brothers aged four and five, they said, tumbled into the sea and were never found, while others grabbed jerry cans of spare fuel to keep them afloat in the water.
Some emptied the cans to make them more buoyant thus spreading the fuel on and around those in the water.
MSF rescue teams were alerted at 10:45am and the Dignity 1 was dispatched. It found a broken inflatable with six people missing and many others semi-conscious.
A seven- month pregnant Nigerian woman, Joy, was rescued, coughing and sputtering blood as medical teams tried to save her life, while her semi-conscious sister, Lovett, lay on the vomit and faeces covered floor beside her.
Lovett claimed she followed Joy into the boat to look after her.
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