At least 8 dead and 86 rescued off Libyan coast

At least eight migrants died and 86 others were rescued after a rubber dinghy started sinking in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya 

At least eight people died and 86 others were rescued on Saturday after a rubber dinghy started sinking in the Mediterranean Sea off Libya, the Italian coast guard said.

The Italian coast guard, which coordinates rescues in international waters off Libya's coast, said an aircraft on patrol for a European anti-smuggling operation had spotted the dinghy, which was in difficulty Saturday.

All eight victims were female, the coastguard said. A spokesman said survivors told rescuers that roughly 150 migrants were aboard when the dinghy was launched from Libya's coast. A search was continuing to find any more survivors.

Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish humanitarian group that is one of the few NGOs which still operate their own rescue ships outside Libyan waters, said some of the migrants had spent hours in the water before being saved.

The coast guard’s Cmdr Sergio Liardo told RaiNews24 “it appears the dinghy deflated” after a puncture. When rescuers arrived in the early afternoon about 20 people were still in the dinghy while others were in the water.

Libyan navy and coast guard spokesman Brig Gen Ayoub Qassim said the migrants’ boat capsized and sank in international waters and the Libyan navy did not have the resources to rush to their rescue.

He said the boat left Garbouli, east of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, with more than 100 people on board. Smugglers routinely crowd many more than 100 people into motorised rubber dinghies designed to hold far fewer.

About 119,000 migrants arrived in Italy from across the Mediterranean in 2017 and, according to the International Organisation for Migration, more than 3,100 died making the crossing.