Rome: As many as 700 people are feared dead after a boat carrying migrants capsized off the Libyan coast overnight, the Times of Malta reported on Sunday.
Twenty eight people were rescued in the incident, which happened in an area just off Libyan waters, 120 miles south of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, the newspaper’s website reported.
The emergency was declared at about midnight. The boat is believed to have capsized when migrants moved to one side of the vessel when a merchant ship approached.
It was the latest accident involving migrants’ boats in less than a week. Last week, over 400 people were feared to have died after their ship overturned off the coast of Libya.
Italian coastguard spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo said that even before the latest sinking more than 500 migrants, many refugees fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, had died so far this year trying to cross to Europe.
According to the International Organization for Migration, which has interviewed some of the survivors, between 500 and 550 people, many of them young, were crammed onto the vessel at the time.
The charity Save The Children said some were thought to be unaccompanied children.
Italian coastguards, who intercepted 42 boats on Sunday and Monday alone carrying 6,500 migrants attempting to make the hazardous crossing to Europe, confirmed that they had saved 145 people from the sunken boat and found nine bodies.