- California bans full-contact football practices in off-season
- Thune: Downed fighter jets show more evidence of separatist capabilities
- Obama tells DNC fundraising crowd: ‘I’m not overly partisan’
- Chambliss: Downed jet ultimately goes back to Putin
- Perdue strategy: Run against Reid, Obama, Pelosi
- White House: More changes to contraception mandate coming
- ‘Operation Normandy’ set to send 3,500 volunteers to border to ‘stop an invasion’
- Netanyahu’s spokesman: Safe to fly to Israel
- Oregon vandals smear cars with doughnuts, pastries, chocolate bars
- Obama’s ‘Katrina moment’ leaves his favorability factor at 42 percent
U.N. calls on Europe to step up Libya sea rescue
Question of the Day
GENEVA (AP) — The U.N. refugee agency appealed to European countries Tuesday to step up rescue efforts for people fleeing the violence in Libya, warning that hundreds have drowned in recent weeks after their overloaded boats capsized in the Mediterranean Sea.
A spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said European authorities patrolling the Mediterranean should not wait to receive distress calls from stricken vessels before offering assistance.
It appears now that hundreds of Libyans have lost their lives at sea in recent weeks, and Fleming said the boats will only keep on coming.
The U.N. agency said at least 800 people are unaccounted for since boats started leaving Libya on March 25. That figure does not include those who perished Friday when a boat believed to have been carrying 600 people capsized near Tripoli, the Libyan capital, killing many if not most of those on board.
Ms. Fleming said a Somali diplomat in Tripoli told the agency that 16 bodies, including those of two babies, had been retrieved so far.
And the number of migrants is increasing, she said. Five boats carrying 2,400 people have arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa recent days, and every one of those boats needed to be rescued by the Italian coast guard and police, she said.
“We honestly believe that the Italian coast guard is doing its best,” Ms. Fleming said. But she added that, given how many people have drowned, “something isn’t working.”
The Rev. Moses Zerai, an Eritrean priest, said he was contacted by refugees aboard a ship who said their call for help was ignored by Western forces in late March. NATO has denied the claim, first reported by the Guardian newspaper in Britain.
With the battery of the satellite phone aboard the boat quickly running out, Father Zerai said, he called the Italian coast guard but was told they couldn’t locate the boat but had alerted all the competent maritime authorities. With still no news, he called NATO on March 28.
“Fifteen days later, survivors told us what had happened,” Father Zerai told the Associated Press in an interview Tuesday near the Vatican. “They were approached by a helicopter on Saturday, March 26, which provided them with water to drink and biscuits to eat. Then, it vanished; it didn’t send any help.
“Three days later they were spotted by an aircraft carrier. They do not know what nationality it was, but they said it was some 300 to 400 meters from them, so it is not possible that they weren’t seen,” he said. “They made signals; they told me they showed empty tanks to say they had no water, held up the children who were on board.
“They drifted for 15 days, and slowly people started to die. The first to die were the two children, and then from hunger and thirst 61 people died,” Father Zerai said.
Vittorio Alessandro, a spokesman for the Italian coast guard, told La Repubblica newspaper that he did receive the alert from the priest, but on March 27. He said they alerted Maltese authorities and sent out a warning to vessels in the area to stand ready to help.
A senior NATO official, Brig. Gen. Claudio Gabellini, said there was “absolutely no evidence of NATO ships being involved in such events.” Gen. Gabellini, who spoke by phone from Naples, Italy, is the chief operations officer for “Unified Protector,” the code name for NATO’s mission in Libya.
TWT Video Picks
Retailer pays a price for getting too close to Obama
- CARSON: Costco and the perils of mixing politics and business
- Two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down
- David Perdue defeats Jack Kingston in Georgia Republican Senate primary runoff
- HURT: The cost of 'free' water in Detroit
- Beretta moving to Tennessee over Maryland gun laws
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- IRS seeks help destroying another 3,200 computer hard drives
- D.C. appeals panel deals big blow to Obamacare subsidies
- DEACE: How to go from civil rights icon to bigot in one quote
- House task force to recommend National Guard on border, faster deportations
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq