A Nigerian toddler is among the 17 migrants missing after a rubber boat carrying over 130 persons partially submerged off the coast of Libya, the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) said on Thursday.
“The sea was rough and the boat was taking on water. At one point some people started to panic. The next thing I knew I was pushed into the water and I lost my son in the chaos,” the boy’s mother told the Phoenix crew, MOAS said.
She remained in shock after describing how the toddler fell into the sea, reports said.
One of the surviving teenagers said he had lost five friends to the waves. And another family said their 16-year-old had died.
Italy’s coastguard received a distress call from the vessel on Wednesday evening. It then alerted the privately funded MOAS ship Phoenix, which used remote-controlled drones to locate the boat, a statement said.
Over 100 rescued, the rest missing
The Phoenix crew pulled 113 to safety. But survivors said it had set out from Libya with 130 on board.
A young man said five of his friends were missing, and another man said a 16-year-old girl also had disappeared.
Photographs posted on the MOAS website show that many migrants were in the water, clinging to the boat when rescuers arrived.
A search for the bodies had to be abandoned due to rough seas, the statement said.
Many of those rescued suffered burns caused by leaking fuel. And one woman was in shock with first-degree burns on a third of her body, MOAS said. A medical evacuation for her had been blocked by bad weather.
A similar incident
Separately on Wednesday, two rescue vessels operated by MOAS and Save the Children rescued a total of 470 migrants, an Italian coastguard spokesman said.
The central Mediterranean route between North Africa and Italy is the deadliest border in the world for migrants.
And more than 3,100 have gone missing or died this year while trying to use this route to reach Europe by boat, the International Organization for Migration estimates.