African migrants whose small boat was intercepted Saturday off the coast of Sicily said eight people died during their grueling, 10-day trip, the third deadly sea journey by migrants trying to reach Italy in less than a month.
The 19 people who survived the trip were taken to a hospital in the port town of Porto Palo on Sicily's southwestern coast, said Cmdr. Nazzareno Lagana. The migrants all from Eritrea told authorities they had left from Libya 10 to 12 days earlier.
Seven of those who died apparently were from Eritrea, and the eighth was from Somalia, Lagana said.
The survivors were severely dehydrated and skin abrasions from their extended exposure to the sun, he said. "Four of them were in a really bad state," he said.
"They had almost no food on board. They are true survivors, if they were out there 10 or 12 days," Lagana added.
The migrant's boat was spotted about midday Saturday by a Liberian container ship, which alerted Italian Coast Guard officials, Lagana said. The Coast Guard then intercepted their boat about 60 nautical miles south of Sicily.
An increased number of migrant smugglers tried reach Italian shores over the summer. Africans fleeing violence or poverty risk dangerous trips aboard flimsy boats to reach better economic opportunities in Europe.