At least three migrants, two men and one woman, died when a fire broke out on Sunday on a boat carrying about 20 of them near the south coast of Italy, police and health officials said.
Another five migrants were injured and taken to hospitals, the health authorities in the Italian port city of Crotone said. Two of them were in serious condition.
Two financial police officers were injured while trying to get the migrant ship to safety, according to Commander Emilio Fiora of the AdnKronos news agency. He said the ship’s engine caught fire and there was an explosion.
Fiora added that searches were carried out to make sure everyone had been rescued.
Italy used to be a major route into Europe for hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and other migrants, but the number fell sharply after crackdown on smugglers in Libya.
However, there has been a pick-up in 2020 despite Rome closing its ports to migrant boats and the impossibility of helping migrants due to the coronavirus crisis.
According to official data from the Ministry of the Interior, around 18,000 migrants reached the Italian coasts in 2020, compared to around 4,900 in the same period in 2019.
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