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AFM coordinates migrants rescue

Around 170 women and 30 children were on board the boat.

Around 170 women and 30 children were on board the boat.

A boat with some 600 immigrants fleeing Libya was expected to arrive in Lampedusa early this morning after a rescue coordinated by the Armed Forces of Malta.

The boat battled force 6 winds and high waves, but still managed to steam towards Lampedusa after launching the alarm through a satellite phone.

Yesterday morning, the Rome rescue coordination authorities notified their Maltese counterparts that a boatload of migrants was located 42 nautical miles from Lampedusa, and 109 miles from Malta.

The AFM managed to establish contact via satellite phone with the migrants, which included 170 women and 30 children. Despite claiming that their boat was taking in water, they proceeded steadily directly north to Lampedusa, the army said in a statement last night.

By the time the migrants’ boat was 37 miles from Lampedusa late in the morning, Malta had initiated rescue efforts with the US Navy’s 6th Fleet Headquarters in Naples, as well as other merchant vessel shipping in the area, since Italian rescue assets were busy overnight with migrant boat rescue operations.

Despite the inclement weather and the considerable distance from Malta, an AFM patrol vessel left in search of the boat.

Early in the afternoon, a Nato aircraft contacted the Malta centre and confirmed that their boat was still afloat and heading north. An AFM aircraft was simultaneously scrambled to the area, successfully locating the migrants’ 20-metre boat.

The immigrants were successfully intercepted by Italian rescuers around 19 miles from Lampedusa. The islet of Lampedusa is once again facing a state of emergency with around 2,000 immigrants from Libya and Tunisia landing in 36 hours.

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