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Libyan Refugees Survive Boat Sinking
May 9, 2011

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All 528 refugees fleeing the civil war in Libya are alive and well, thanks to local fishermen and Italian coast guard workers who pitched in to save the hundreds of people after their boat began sinking after hitting rocks off the island of Lampedusa. A few people sustained injuries and were hospitalized; among those saved were 24 pregnant women.

The boat was the latest to arrive at the tiny island, normally home to a few thousand people but recently overrun by tens of thousands of people fleeing the violence in North Africa. In some cases, these are family members of people staying behind in Libya to fight against the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Many of the people who have arrived on Lampedusa, however, have left Tunisia as well, after violence from Libya jumped the political border.

The situation remained bleak in Misrata, one of the few cities in western Libya not controlled by government forces. The rebels hanging on there have reported intense barrages from rockets, tanks, and gunmen, as well as street-by-street fighting resulting in the shooting of unarmed civilians. The government has denied such charges.

NATO-led airstrikes continued to target forces loyal to Gadhafi, including in the capital, Tripoli, where an earlier blast killed one of his sons and three of his grandchildren.

Escapees continued to pour out of Libyan cities, towns, and villages fleeing the violence that erupted in response to what many in Libya hoped would be a relatively peaceful transition from authoritarian regime to a more representative government, as in Tunisia and Egypt. That has happened, as Gadhafi, who came to power in a coup decades ago, has refused to yield power and instead has trained his forces' guns and weapons on not only rebels with munitions but also civilians with pleas for peace.

The United Nations has estimated that more than 40,000 people have left Libya since the fighting began in earnest. More have attempted to leave but have been thwarted by bombing on both sides. A large number of people who have remained in their homes face shortages of food, water, and medicine.



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