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Dozens missing in Italy after boat capsizes

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Rescue crews are searching the waters off the coast of Italy for survivors of a migrant boat that capsized while approaching the port in Lampedusa, officials say.

Italian and NATO crews rescued 56 people and recovered one body, but passengers said that dozens more people were still missing.

The survivors, all of them believed to be Tunisian, included a pregnant woman, said Commander Filippo Marini, a spokesperson for the Italian coast guard.

They were rescued from the sea as well as on the uninhabited islet of Lampione west of Italy's Lampedusa island, the frequent destination of smugglers' boats leaving north Africa.

Marini said by telephone that Italian and NATO vessels and aircraft were searching the area around Lampedusa for survivors since passengers continued to report that more than 100 people had been on board.

The fishing boat carrying the migrants sent out a distress signal by satellite phone late on Thursday night.

It sank about 12 nautical miles off Lampedusa, the Italian island closest to the coast of north Africa.

The first people were pulled from the sea around 00:30 GMT on Friday, while some managed to swim to a small islet.

Marini said there was no trace of the boat, which according to the initial reports was an old, 10-metre wooden vessel.

Tens of thousands of migrants, many on board smugglers' boats, head to Italy's shores every year, primarily from north Africa.

Amnesty International reported that in 2011 alone, at least 1,500 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe.


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