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Monday, May 9, 2011

Libya refugee boat sank off Tripoli, witnesses say

NEWS.COM.AU -- Refugees from Libya who arrived in Italy today said they saw another boat laden with fellow refugees capsize just off Libyan shores and "many bodies" were in the water, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

"They were in front of us, not far from the shore, when the overcrowded boat capsized," one refugee was quoted as saying of the incident on Friday after landing in Lampedusa, an Italian island where thousands of refugees have been arriving.

"It was terrible. There were a lot of corpses," said the refugee, whose name was not quoted in the report.

ANSA said "dozens of dozens of migrants are believed dead", while others managed to swim to the shore.

Italian newspapers earlier reported that a boat carrying 600 refugees sank near Tripoli, citing a Catholic bishop in Libya and an ANSA report.

A Somali refugee also in Lampedusa whose son was on the boat received a call from relatives telling her that he was one of the victims, ANSA reported.

Italian officials said they had no information about the incident.

Bishop Giovanni Martinelli was quoted by Corriere della Sera daily as saying that he had met some of the boat's Somali passengers before their departure and had received news of the incident from a nun.

"They said they had finally found a boat to go to Italy... They were all happy and smiling, there were a lot of children among them too. But their boat sank. Their dream sank," Bishop Martinelli was quoted as saying.

"The cemetery of the Mediterranean is continuing to fill up with dead bodies," Corriere della Sera commented.

Some 150 refugees fleeing Libya are believed to have died last month after their boat capsized in stormy weather in the middle of the Mediterranean, with Italian coast guards managing to pluck 53 survivors from the sea.

Italian coast guards earlier today rescued all 528 passengers from a boat that ran aground as it was approaching the port of Lampedusa in the night, forcing panicked refugees to jump into the sea.

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