Migrants tell ITV News of boat sinking horror that killed 400 people

Three survivors tell ITV News their harrowing accounts of what happened when their boat sank. Credit: ITV News

Three survivors of the recent boat tragedy off the coast of Malta have told ITV News their harrowing accounts of that day.

More than 400 migrants, including 100 children, died as they were on their way to Italy after the boat they were travelling in was rammed by people smugglers.

ITV Europe Editor James Mates reports:

Survivors of the September 10 tragedy said the people smugglers were angry because they had refused to transfer to a smaller boat.

One told ITV News they thought the ship was coming to save them until it rammed their boat.

Shukri al-Asouli, 33, from Gaza

Shukri al-Asouli was travelling with his wife Hiyam, four-year-old daughter Ritaj and nine-month-old son Yamin. Credit: ITV News

Shukri al-Asouli told ITV News he and his family made the boat journey so he could get treatment in Europe for an injury and his children could "enjoy themselves after the war".

Al-Asouli was travelling with his wife Hiyam, four-year-old daughter Ritaj and nine-month-old son Yamin when their boat was hit.

He does not know what happened to his children. "Are they alive or dead? If they are dead I want to see their bodies - that is all," he said.

Survivor Shukri al-Asouli shows pictures of his family. Credit: ITV News

Al-Asouli survived by clinging onto a school backpack which kept him afloat.

"We were at sea for four days before anyone found us, I think there was about 100 to 150 people," he said.

"But with every day the number got less and less. Some couldn't handle the cold, some drowned, until the fourth day we were there with no food or water. On the fourth day I barely saw anyone."

Abdel Majeed al-Hila, 25, from Gaza

Abdel Majeed al-Hila said he would 'dream of sleeping one night without hearing bombing or shelling'. Credit: ITV News

University student Abdel Majeed al-Hila decided to leave Gaza because after his home was destroyed he had "nothing left to make me stay".

Al-Hila told ITV News the migrants thought the boat that hit the ship they were in had been coming to save them.

"We were so excited," he said. "Then it hit us. I fell into the water."

The survivors claim traffickers rammed the boat they were in. Credit: ITV News

Luckily he had been cold on the boat and decided to wear a life jacket to keep warm. "That was my destiny," al-Hila said.

He had been travelling on the boat with four people, all of whom died before the migrants were rescued.

"I can't think of my life until I forget what's happened - I will never forget this," he added.

Mohammed Radeh, 23, from Gaza

Mohammed Radeh, 23, hoped to arrive in a country 'which respected human life'. Credit: ITV News

Mohammed Radeh said he "fell into a world of war" when he became a teenager and had hoped to arrive in a country "which respected human life".

He told ITV News, "I thought what is the best way to get to a gentler life? Where I can live in safety and [have] things that I value like freedom and kindness."

The 23-year-old Palestinian paid $2,100 (£1,314) to board the boat in the hope of making it to Sweden or Belgium.

The route across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy is popular with migrants, refugees and people smugglers. Credit: MSF/Ikram N'gadi

He said that on the fourth day of the "tortuous" journey "something hit the boat from the side and we all fell into the water."

"Over 400 people died instantly ... around 90 people survived," Radeh continued. "For four days we were in the water- between the first and the third day another 60 died."

The Palestinian said he does not know anything about the man he paid for the journey. "Even his name and phone number are fake, he'll never give his real name."

Charity Medecins sans Frontieres, which provides medical care to migrants and refugees in Italy, said they "flee one danger straight into the arms of another on rickety boats they can only hope will bring them to safety."