ROME (AP) — Two minors were found dead Friday on a migrant boat carrying nearly 40 people in the Mediterranean Sea and a search was under way for a woman reported missing from the vessel, Italy’s coast guard said.
A coast guard statement said 36 people were found alive on the boat, which had been reportedly disabled by an explosion, in waters off Malta. It was not immediately clear how the minors had died or what the passengers’ nationalities were.
Italian state TV said the migrants, including many from sub-Saharan Africa, had sailed from the Tunisian port of Sfax.
The coast guard statement said a Tunisian fishing boat informed the coast guard earlier Friday that the migrants were in difficulty within Malta’s search-and-rescue zone.
In accordance with Maltese authorities, the Italian coast guard dispatched a motorboat to their aid. The statement said the fishing boat had told rescuers there had been an explosion on the migrants’ boat.
A coast guard aircraft and vessel were searching for the woman reported missing. The ages of the two dead minors were not made public.
Doctors examining the migrants said several had suffered burns.
The survivors were brought to Lampedusa, a tiny Italian island south of Sicily, which has a residential center for rescued migrants where initial documentation can be done ahead of asylum requests.
Many of the migrants who reach Italy by sea from Africa, the Middle East or Asia — either on their own boats or aboard rescue vessels — are fleeing poverty, not war or persecution, and their asylum bids are rejected.
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