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Rome - A Syrian woman gave birth at sea during a risky Mediterranean crossing to Italy by up to 191 refugees fleeing the war-riven country who arrived on Wednesday, officials said.
“We found her with the umbilical cord still attached. Mother and daughter are doing well,” Luca Sancilio, the local coast guard commander in the port of Syracuse in Sicily, told news channel SkyTG24.
The heavily overcrowded boat carrying the refugees was spotted by a coast guard plane on Tuesday and escorted to the port by a navy patrol vessel.
“They were in good condition, even though they began their journey eight days ago,” Mario de Rosa, captain of the patrol boat, told SkyTG24.
“They were almost all from Syria, even though they made two or three stops along the way including at least one in Turkey,” De Rosa said.
There were 48 children among those on board.
A second boat with around 150 people on board was spotted by a fishing boat some 15 nautical miles from the coast and was also being taken to Syracuse.
Thousands of asylum-seekers have landed in Sicily in recent weeks, many of them coming from Egypt and Syria.
“There are now more Syrians than anyone else. This is a really dramatic exodus,” Sancilio said.
Also on Wednesday, a boat with 115 migrants presumably arriving from Libya was rescued by the Maltese military and taken to the little Mediterranean island state.
The boat was intercepted some 90 nautical miles south of Malta, and the crew said they were in distress as their dinghy had started taking on water.
This was the second group to arrive on Malta in a day after the navy on Tuesday rescued another group of 81 migrants, most of them apparently from Eritrea.
There has been a surge in arrivals in Italy and Malta from north Africa in recent months because of increasing unrest in the region and calmer summer weather. - AFP