Boat with 700 migrants capsizes in N Libya, hundreds feared dead
A boat believed to be crowded with 700 migrants capsized in the waters north of Libya, leaving at least 24 confirmed dead and sparking fears for what could become the Mediterranean’s deadliest known migrant sea disaster, Italy’s Coast Guard and other officials said on Sunday The Coast Guard said in a statement that the migrants’ 20-meter vessel may have overturned because migrants rushed to one side of the craft when they saw a Portuguese merchant vessel approach it late last night. The cargo ship had been dispatched to come to the migrants’ aid.
The Coast Guard said at least 28 survivors had been rescued by this morning. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat put the number of survivors at 50. It was not clear whether Muscat’s figure included the 28 survivors reported by Italy. Maltese search units were aiding rescue efforts. Muscat said rescuers were seeing people in the sea and were “checking who is alive and who is dead.”
The capsising of such a crowded boat represented the “biggest human tragedy of the last few years,” Muscat said.
A United Nations refugee agency spokeswoman Carlotta Sami tweeted that according to one survivor, the boat had set out with 700 migrants aboard. Given the depth of the sea, as deep as 5 kilometers or more in the area, it was possible that many bodies would never be recovered.