Rescuers have so far recovered the bodies of five women after a migrant boat capsized within sight of the Italian island of Lampedusa late on Saturday, the Coast Guard said in a statement Sunday. Italian rescuers saved a total of 149 people, including 133 men, 13 women, and three children, in the aftermath of the shipwreck, but survivors said some 20 people are missing.
"The lifeless bodies of three women have been recovered at sea by a Coast Guard cutter (and) the bodies of two more women were found on land by Finance Guard personnel," the statement said. "The search for those missing at sea is ongoing... weather and sea conditions remain adverse," the statement continued, adding that the Coast Guard is searching for possible survivors or more bodies with a helicopter and a vessel.
The rescue operation was hampered by "prohibitive conditions at sea, with waves of over two meters" and also due to the "elevated number of people who fell into the sea at the same time," the Coast Guard statement explained. Lying close to North Africa, Lampedusa is the first European landfall for migrants fleeing their home countries along the so-called Central Mediterranean route.
A total of 10,115 people have reached Italy on migrant vessels between January 1 and November 22 this year, compared to 22,558 arrivals in 2018 and 1,14,673 arrivals in 2017, the Interior Ministry reported.