Italian authorities on Wednesday said 41 migrants are thought to have died in a shipwreck last week in the central Mediterranean, according to accounts by survivors who have been taken to the island of Lampedusa.
Local public prosecutor Salvatore Vella confirmed media reports that four people who survived the shipwreck told rescuers they were on a boat carrying 45 people, including three children.
Vella’s office has opened an investigation into the incident.
The 7-metre-long boat set off on Thursday morning from Tunisia’s Sfax, a hot spot in the migration crisis, but capsized and sank after a few hours when hit by a big wave, the survivors were quoted as saying by Italian news agency Ansa.
The Sea-Watch charity rescue group said one of its surveillance planes spotted them being rescued by a cargo ship. They were then transferred onto an Italian coast guard vessel and disembarked in Lampedusa, where they shared their story.
“They said they were among the few aboard (the sunken boat) with a life jacket, and (after the shipwreck) they remained in the water until they found another empty boat”, Sea-Watch said in a statement.
The migrants arrived in Lampedusa exhausted and in a state of shock. They are due to be questioned by police, prosecutors said. They are presumed to have spent several days adrift at sea with no food or drinking water.
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