Mediterranean migrants: Hundreds feared dead after boat capsizes
Hundreds of people are feared to have drowned after a boat carrying up to 700 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, the Italian coastguard says.
A major rescue operation is under way after the vessel carrying “between 500 and 700 migrants” capsized at midnight local time, south of the Italian island of Lampedusa.
So far 28 people have been rescued.
Earlier this week, four hundred people are feared to have drowned when their vessel capsized north of Libya.
Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that many people were feared dead.
Italian ships, the Maltese Navy and commercial vessels are all involved in the rescue operation in Libyan waters.
The Times of Malta newspaper reported that the migrants fell overboard when they rushed to draw the attention of a passing merchant ship.
Mark Micallef, a journalist with the paper, told the BBC such incidents were “not at all uncommon”.
“We have seen this sort of scenario happen all over again, where a boat gets capsized right at the moment of rescue.
“This is part of the problem: merchant vessels… ill equipped to do rescues, [are] being tasked to do a job they’re not designed for,” he said.
The Italian coastguard’s spokesman said the fishing boat capsized about 130 miles (210km) off the coast of Lampedusa and 17 miles (27km) from the Libyan coast.
“At the moment, this is still a search and rescue operation, but in time it will be a search [for bodies] only,” the spokesman said.
Twenty ships and three helicopters were currently involved in the rescue, he added.