ROME: Italian rescuers found 18 bodies on a boat carrying hundreds of asylum-seekers on Saturday and another died while being evacuated — all apparently killed by toxic fumes from the engine, the ANSA news agency reported.
The boat, with 600 people on board, was intercepted south of the island of Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost point and a major landing point for migrant Mediterranean crossings from Libya as it is closer to Africa than mainland Italy. Two more people have been evacuated by helicopter from the boat and been taken to Palermo hospital in Sicily in a serious condition, the report said. The coastguard and navy could not be reached for comment.
ANSA said Italian authorities were first alerted by a merchant ship in the area, some 80 nautical miles (148 kilometres, 92 miles) from Lampedusa. Meanwhile a merchant vessel, the Panamanian-flagged City of Sidon, arrived in Porto Empedocle port in Sicily on Saturday with 61 migrants on board — the survivors of another shipwreck tragedy close to Libyan waters.
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