73 dead after boat sinks off coast of Italy
By Hada Messia, CNN
October 3, 2013 — Updated 0938 GMT (1738 HKT)
- As many as 500 could have been on the boat
- About 150 have been rescued
- Pope Francis went to the island to highlight the issue of refugees
(CNN) — At least 73 people, including women and children, died when a boat capsized and caught fire off the island of Lampedusa, the Italian coast guard told CNN on Thursday.
Coast guards were able to save at least 151 people, and the rescue operation is ongoing.
The boat is thought to have been carrying up to 500 people aboard.
The tiny island off the coast of Sicily was in the news this summer when the pope went there to pray for refugees and migrants lost at sea.
During his visit there in July, Pope Francis criticized what he called “global indifference” to the island’s refugee crisis.
In recent years, the Italian Coast Guard says it has been involved in the rescue of more than 30,000 refugees around the island.
Lampedusa is just 113 kilometers (70 miles) from Tunisia and has been the first point of entry to Europe for more than 200,000 refugees and irregular migrants who have passed through the island since 1999.
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