ROME – At least 27 people drowned Friday in the Mediterranean Sea after a boat packed with more than 240 would-be migrants capsized south of the Italian island of Lampedusa, scene of another deadly sinking last week.
Military aircraft from Italy and Malta dropped inflatable life rafts to scores of people in the water, as ships raced to the site of the accident.
An Italian navy spokesman said 221 people were rescued by vessels from both countries, with the injured taken to Lampedusa by helicopter.
The migrant ship was first spotted by a Maltese military aircraft in international waters, about 65 miles southeast of Lampedusa, according to news reports citing a statement from the Maltese navy.
On seeing the aircraft, passengers on the boat began to wave, upsetting the vessel and causing it to capsize, the statement said. The aircraft reportedly dropped a life raft.
The prime minister of Malta, Joseph Muscat, said 27 people were confirmed dead, including three children.
Last week, at least 339 people drowned when a ship carrying about 500 Africans trying to reach Europe caught fire and capsized just half a mile from Lampedusa.
They are part of a desperate tide of humanity, fleeing poverty, persecution and armed conflict, that every year risks their lives in rickety boats for a chance to start over in more affluent Europe. This year alone, about 32,000 migrants have turned up on Italian and Maltese shores, the United Nations has said.