Migrant crisis: Orphan baby who touched Italy starts new life

Favour in arms of Pietro Bartolo Image copyright Pietro Bartolo
Image caption Baby Favour in the arms of Dr Pietro Bartolo

A nine-month-old Nigerian girl who survived a shipwreck is going to an Italian foster family, after her story triggered many adoption offers.

The baby's mother, who was pregnant with a second child, died of petrol burns when an overcrowded migrant boat capsized in the Mediterranean.

Five bodies were found at the scene.

Dr Pietro Bartolo gave the baby first aid on the island of Lampedusa. A photo of him with the baby, called Favour, has gone viral in Italy.

Favour and dozens of other survivors will be transferred by boat from Lampedusa to Sicily. She will be taken in by a child care centre before being looked after by an Italian family.

Dr Bartolo earlier told Italian media that he himself had asked to adopt Favour. But as a 60-year-old with three other children he admitted that he was unlikely to get custody.

"I want to keep her with me forever," he said. "She is a marvellous creature, she hugged me, she didn't shed a tear."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The Italian Navy launched a dramatic operation on Wednesday when a boat carrying more than 500 migrants capsized

Dr Bartolo said his clinic on Lampedusa had been bombarded with phone calls from Italians touched by Favour's story and offering to adopt her.

Favour was given warm clothes, milk, biscuits and ointment at the clinic.

She had come ashore in the arms of a young Nigerian woman, who was one of many survivors with serious burns, apparently caused by a petrol leak from the boat's engine.

Drama on high seas

The migrants, mainly from Nigeria and Mali, had sailed from Libya, like many other Africans fleeing the violence and human rights abuses there.

Their boat tipped over when migrants rushed to one side after spotting a rescue vessel.

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Media captionItalian Navy captain Francesco Iavazzo says he shouted to the migrants to sit down and stay still

On Wednesday, Italian Navy rescuers pulled 562 survivors from the sea in a separate incident. The survivors were also taken to Lampedusa, a tiny island near the North African coast that has been overwhelmed by boatloads of migrants in recent years.

Aid agencies say the sea crossing between Libya and Italy has become the main route for migrants since an EU deal with Turkey in March sharply reduced the flow of migrants across the Aegean to Greece.

Up to 30 people were feared dead when another boat capsized off the Libyan coast on Thursday.

Some 38,000 migrants have arrived on Italian territory since the start of the year, and 5,700 have been unaccompanied minors. The number of arrivals is slightly down on the same period last year.