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Forty-one migrants die in shipwreck off Lampedusa

Forty-one migrants have died in a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa, survivors told local media.

A group of four people who survived the disaster told rescuers that they were on a boat that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia and sank on its way to Italy.

The four survivors, originally from the Ivory Coast and Guinea, reached Lampedusa on Wednesday.

More than 1,800 people have lost their lives so far this year in the crossing from North Africa to Europe.

Local public prosecutor Salvatore Vella said he had opened an investigation into the tragedy.

The survivors - a 13-year-old boy, two men and a woman - told rescuers that they were on a boat carrying 45 people, including three children.

They said the boat, which was about 7m (20ft) long, left Sfax on Thursday last week, but sank within hours after being hit by a big wave. Only 15 people are understood to have been wearing lifejackets, but this apparently failed to save their lives.

The Italian Red Cross and German charity Sea-Watch said the four managed to survive the shipwreck by floating on inner tubes and lifejackets until they found another empty boat at sea, in which they spent several days drifting before being rescued.

The four survivors arrived in Lampedusa suffering from exhaustion and shock, but the doctor who treated them, Adrian Chiaramonte, said they had only minor injuries.

"What really struck us was the story of the tragedy," he said.

"They said they had encountered a first ship, which had apparently ignored them.


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