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Two dead, one missing in another migrant wreck

Incident comes week after 150 lost at sea near Lampedusa

13 April, 13:39
Two dead, one missing in another migrant wreck (ANSA) - Rome, April 13 - Two women are dead and another person is missing after a boat got into trouble near the Sicilian island of Pantelleria Wednesday, a week after at least 150 people were lost at sea when another migrant vessel sank in the Channel of Sicily.

The boat, which was carrying 192 refugees and left conflict-hit Libya five days ago, appears to have run aground in shallow waters after getting lost while an Italian coast guard vessel was trying to escort it to port.

The passengers were forced to abandon the boat and swim ashore in choppy conditions, according to initial reconstructions, and the two women probably drowned as they were trying to do so.

Their bodies were found in water that was only around one-metre deep. The authorities, who have detained the boat's pilot, are searching for the missing person. The death toll would have been higher if coast guards, police, firefighters and local people had not thrown themselves into the sea and saved dozens of migrants, most of whom are throught to be from sub-Saharan Africa.

Pantelleria Mayor Alberto Di Marzo said six children were aboard and a pregnant woman, none of whom are in a life-threatening condition, although the woman is in hospital.

Last week's sinking in rough seas near the southern island of Lampedusa, a landing point for many of the 28,000 migrants to have arrived in Italy this year following unrest in North Africa, took the number of people to have gone missing in the Channel of Sicily in 2011 to around 800.

Children were among the victims of the wreck that claimed the lives of mostly Eritreans and Somalis last week.

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said Tuesday he was hopeful that a recent agreement with the new Tunisian government to boost controls and repatriate new arrivals in exchange for aid and assistance would stem the flow of migrants from that country, the origin of most of the non-EU citizens to land in Italy this year.

But he expressed concerns that large numbers of Africans will keep coming via Libya as conflict between Muammar Gaddafi loyalists and rebels to his 40-year rule continues.