Tunisian captain, Syrian crewman arrested in capsized boat disaster

Published April 21st, 2015 - 09:37 GMT

Italian authorities arrested the captain and a crewman of a migrant boat that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, killing hundreds.

The Tunisian captain and a Syrian crewman were arrested on human-trafficking charges after they were brought ashore in the port of Catania in Sicily, Italy.

Along with the two men, another two dozen migrant survivors have been brought to shore. Officials fear up to 700 people died after the boat capsized Saturday in Libyan waters. Most of the migrants were from Africa and Asia.

Migrants fell overboard and the boat capsized as they attempted to get the attention from a passing merchant ship. A distress signal was sent out and it took hours for rescuers to reach them.

Survivors said hundreds of people were locked in the lower levels of the multi-deck, 75-foot-long boat as it went under.

"Many will not have had a chance to escape and will have gone down with the ship," Giovanni Salvi, a Sicilian prosecutor, told reporters.

Meanwhile, several other vessels carrying a total of 300 migrants sent out distress calls Monday, and in Greece, a wooden vessel ran aground, killing three migrants.

There have been more than 13,000 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean since April 10.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 218,000 people crossed the Mediterranean using irregular routes in 2014, of which 3,500 died. Italy alone dealt with about 170,000 such refugees in that time.

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