ROME – Italian police and coast guard officials on Sunday rescued some 400 illegal migrants coming from Libya whose boat was tossed against rocks near port in southern Italy after the steering malfunctioned, officials said.
Images of the rescue showed panicked migrants jumping or falling into the choppy waters as their boat heaved in the waves off the tiny island of Lampedusa. Some managed to make their way to shore holding on to ropes that had been attached to the boat's stern; others were hauled up on shore by rescue crews in the water.
Financial police official Fabrizio Pisanelli said the boat's steering had stopped working as the boat was nearing Lampedusa's port shortly after 4 a.m. Sunday. Strong winds had pushed the boat against rocks, throwing migrants overboard.
Three police officials who had boarded the boat in open seas helped control the situation, and rescuers reached the migrants immediately, saving them all. Pisanelli said they included women and children, and were from sub-Saharan Africa.
Tens of thousands of migrants have fled unrest in northern Africa since January, most arriving at Lampedusa, the nearest Italian port to Africa.