Scores of people are believed to have died after a boat carrying migrants capsized off the coast of Libya. According to Reuters, as many as 700 people are feared dead following the boat tragedy. The boat is estimated to have carried at least 800 migrants in its several decks. The accident occurred a few kilometers off the coast of Libya near the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, CNN reports.
Reuters has described the tragedy as one of the worst disasters the Mediterranean Sea has ever witnessed. As of now, Italian Coast Guard officials have confirmed that 28 people have been rescued from the capsized boat. Several bodies too have been recovered following rescue efforts. One Italian official confirmed that they are using naval vessels in the rescue operations that are being coordinated by the Italian Coast Guard in Rome. Details of the operation, however, remain sketchy.
According to rescued people who were onboard the boat, the vessel capsized after several migrants packed inside it moved to one side of the boat when a merchant shipped drew close to the boat.
Carlotta Sami, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has described the incident as a “tragedy of really vast proportions.”
“At the moment, we fear that this is a tragedy of really vast proportions. The first details came from one of the survivors who spoke English and who said that at least 700 people, if not more, were on board. The boat capsized because people moved to one side when another boat approached that they hoped would rescue them.”
The latest boat tragedy is the worst the Mediterranean has witnessed since the migrant crisis began in the area nearly a decade ago. As of now, it is estimated that approximately 1,500 migrants have perished in the sea in the last 10 years alone.
The incident happened just a few days after the Inquisitr reported about another incident in the same area where several Christian migrants aboard a migrant ship were thrown overboard by Muslims.
The boat tragedy in the Mediterranean is also likely to result in a stronger response by Europe in the coming days against the migrant problem. The problem of influx of illegal migrants from Libya and other African countries intensified after the toppling of the Gaddafi regime in 2011. It is estimated that until now, at least 20,000 migrants have managed to reach Italy illegally using this route.
[Image via EPA/BGNES]