22 Aug 2009

Migrants die on boat in Mediterranean

4:05 pm on 22 August 2009

About 75 illegal immigrants from Africa have died while travelling on a crowded rubber dinghy between Libya and Italy.

Italian coastguards picked up five survivors from the four-metre vessel found drifting in Italian waters between Malta and the tiny island of Lampedusa, the BBC reports.

The five Eritreans who survived the journey - a woman, a child and three men - told rescuers that they had set out from the Libyan coast three weeks ago but had run out of food, water and fuel.

They said many people had died after drinking sea water and their bodies had been thrown overboard.

The survivors said no passing ships offered any help.

The United Nations Refugee Agency said the failure of other ships to stop and help represented a betrayal of maritime tradition.