Woman escapes death in syria to give new life at sea
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 a piece of the umbilical cord still attached," Luca Sancilio, the local coast guard commander in the port of Syracuse, in Sicily, told news channel SkyTG24.
Sancilio said the woman had given birth to a little girl, although the hospital where they were taken later said the baby was in fact a boy.
The coast guard estimated the baby was about four days old and was born during the eight-day voyage.
Mother and son are well and resting, the hospital said.
A coast guard plane spotted the heavily overcrowded boat carrying the refugees on Tuesday and a navy patrol vessel escorted it to the port.
The people on board included 48 children.
Mario de Rosa, captain of the patrol boat, told SkyTG24 they had to be transferred onto the Italian vessel after their boat suffered engine failure in stormy seas.
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.
Another boat carrying 107 Syrian refugees landed in Sicily on Tuesday, getting stuck on rocks just off the shore.
Three Egyptian crew members from that boat have been arrested on charges of aiding illegal immigration.
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 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.