Migrant mother gave birth as she drowned

One of the more than 300 asylum-seekers who drowned off the coast of Italy last week had given birth moments before dying. She was found by divers with her newborn son still attached by the umbilical cord.

Migrant mother gave birth as she drowned
An unidentified grave of an asylum-seeker inside the cemetery of Lampedusa. Photo: Roberto Salomone/AFP

Divers have so far recovered 302 bodies from a migrant boat which sank on October 3rd, but little could have prepared them for the discovery of the youngest victim.

A newborn baby boy was found attached to his mother, who had likely given birth as the ship sank, La Repubblica reported.

“It was probably a premature birth, prompted by the fear and terror of the mother during the fire,” doctor Pietro Bartolo, who has been inspecting the bodies, told the newspaper.

A fire is thought to have been lit by the captain to attract the attention of the coastguard after the boat started taking on water. But the fire spread and the boat capsized; only 155 of around 500 Eritrean and Somali passengers survived.

“In the past few days I have seen many bodies, but those of the children are always a terrible torment,” Bartolo said. “It was a further torment to see such a small body…it was terrible.”

The woman and her son were placed together in a coffin, among the hundreds that rest in a hanger in Lampedusa’s airport, La Repubblica said.

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta yesterday announced that a state funeral will be held for the victims.

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