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News Wrap: Ship with African migrants sinks en route to Europe, killing 114

October 3, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

JUDY WOODRUFF: In other news, the incident outside the Capitol diverted attention, for a time, from the ongoing drama over the government shutdown. Negotiations were at a standstill, as President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner fired verbal volleys back and forth. We will have more on this after the news summary.

The Labor Department announced today that it will not release the September jobs report tomorrow because of the shutdown. Meanwhile, Wall Street lost ground on worries about the stalemate in Washington. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 136 points to close at 14996. The Nasdaq fell more than 40 points to close at 3774.

After the market closed, Twitter released filing documents on its initial public offering of stock. It said it hopes to raise $1 billion.

At least 114 people died early today when a crowded boat sank near a tiny Italian island. Many scores more were missing and feared dead. The vessel went down in the Mediterranean off the island of Lampedusa with up to 500 African migrants on board.

Matt Frei of Independent Television News filed this report.

Some of the images may be disturbing.

MATT FREI: They have been fishing bodies out of the waters since dawn. So far, no children and only three of the estimated 100 women on board have been saved. The head of the rescue team had never seen anything as bad as this.

PIPPO NOTO, head of rescue team (through interpreter): This was dramatic and tragic from every point of view. Among the victims were many children. It’s horrible. They had new shoes, signs of hope. It is really devastating.

MATT FREI: The cause of the tragedy seemed to have been a fire on board the ship lit by the passengers to try and alert nearby vessels that their engine had broken.

ANTONOIO CANDELA, local health commissioner (through interpreter): The first witness reports we heard three hours ago suggest that the boat caught fire and, because of this, everyone pushed forward, which caused the boat to overturn.

MATT FREI: The dead came mainly from Eritrea. Like tens of thousands of others, they undertake this costly odyssey in search of a more prosperous life in Europe. The final stage of their journey, the short crossing by boat to Lampedusa, should be the easiest.

In Rome, the pope expressed his profound grief for the victims today.

POPE FRANCIS (through interpreter): The word disgrace comes to mind. It’s a disgrace.


MATT FREI: The disgrace of desperation that drives families to risk their lives in search of a better one. It was precisely to highlight this that Pope Francis traveled to Lampedusa in July. Until today, the victims of this very modern migration had often remained invisible to the wider world. Not this week.

A few days ago, this was the grisly scene on a beach in Sicily when 13 migrants also mainly from Eritrea and Egypt drowned just yards away from shore.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Syria, six major rebel groups demanded today that other factions stop fighting each other over a key border town near Turkey. A group tied to al-Qaida has been battling fighters affiliated with a Western-backed group. It’s the latest example of deepening divisions within rebel ranks. More on this later in the program.

Secretary of State John Kerry is defending diplomatic openings to Iran over its nuclear program. He addressed the issue today for the first time since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against trusting Iran’s new president. On a visit to Tokyo, Kerry said the U.S. has to find out if Tehran’s nuclear efforts can be stopped by peaceful means.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: We have an obligation. It would be diplomatic malpractice of the worst order not to examine every possibility of whether or not you can achieve that, before you ask people to take military action to do what you have to do in order to prevent something from happening.

JUDY WOODRUFF: At the same time, Kerry said the U.S. won’t be played for — quote — “suckers.”

In Washington, the chief U.S. nuclear negotiator, Wendy Sherman, said only concrete and verifiable actions by Iran will bring relief from economic sanctions.

Russia evacuated its embassy in Libya today, a day after it was attacked by an armed mob. The assault followed the death of a Libyan air force officer, allegedly at the hands of a Russian woman. One of the attackers was killed, but none of the Russian staff was injured. Embassy officials and their families crossed the border into Tunisia today, and will fly to Moscow tomorrow.

Thirteen members of the Internet hacking group Anonymous are facing a federal indictment in Virginia. The hackers allegedly attacked government agencies, financial institutions, and other major organizations. Court documents say it was all part of a campaign dubbed Operation Payback.

The U.S. Gulf Coast has begun preparing for possible evacuations, now that Tropical Storm Karen has formed off Mexico. It’s the first named tropical system to threaten the U.S. mainland this year and could grow into a hurricane as it moves northward. Alerts have been posted from Southeast Louisiana to the Florida panhandle.