ROME, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Italian officials are asking why NATO allegedly refused to help rescue passengers on a boat stranded in Libyan waters with numerous dead people aboard.
Italy asked NATO to investigate itself over claims it ignored calls Thursday to help rescue the ship’s nearly 400 passengers. Dozens of the people on the overcrowded boat had died, reports said.
Among those rescued, 50 were immediately treated for dehydration and hypothermia; five others were hospitalized for more serious conditions.
The ship had been floating for six days after its engine broke down, ANSA, Italy’s news agency, said.
Italian officials said they asked a NATO ship less than 30 miles away for help but NATO reportedly refused. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called for NATO to investigate the allegations.
“NATO always responds and intervenes in emergency situations, in compliance with international law,” said NATO spokesman David Taylor. “NATO ship commanders are well aware of these laws and act in accordance with the norms of SOLAS [Safety Of Life At Sea], which regulate the procedures to follow for rescues at sea.”
ANSA said it is the second time in a week the Italian coast guard rescued boats fleeing Libya with dead bodies on board.
Italy’s coast guard found 25 dead bodies on a ship crammed with 271 refugees fleeing Libya Monday. They were rescued off the Italian island of Lampedusa.
In another incident, two NATO jets reportedly passed over a vessel stranded off the Libyan coast in March. Of the 72 refugees on board, 61 eventually died after more than two weeks at sea. It was unclear what assistance pilots of the jets provided.