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Up to 700 feared dead after migrant boat sinks off Libya

Arab World Materials 19 April 2015 16:56 (UTC +04:00)
As many as 700 people were feared dead after a fishing boat packed with migrants capsized off the Libyan coast overnight, in what may be one of the worst disasters of the Mediterranean migrant crisis, officials said on Sunday.
Up to 700 feared dead after migrant boat sinks off Libya

As many as 700 people were feared dead after a fishing boat packed with migrants capsized off the Libyan coast overnight, in what may be one of the worst disasters of the Mediterranean migrant crisis, officials said on Sunday, Reuters reported.

Twenty eight people were rescued in the incident, which happened just off Libyan waters, south of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, Antonino Irato, a senior official from the Italian border police, told television station RaiNews24.

He said 24 bodies had been recovered.

If confirmed, the death toll would bring the total number of dead since the beginning of the year to more than 1,500.

The new deaths fueled calls for a stronger response from Europe to the increasingly deadly migrant crisis playing out in the Mediterranean. International aid groups and Italian authorities have criticized Europe's so-called "Triton" border protection operation, which recently replaced a more comprehensive Italian search-and-rescue mission.

"A tragedy is unfolding in the Mediterranean, and if the EU and the world continue to close their eyes, it will be judged in the harshest terms as it was judged in the past when it closed its eyes to genocides when the comfortable did nothing," Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.

Italian officials said navy and coast guard vessels, as well as merchant ships in the area and a Maltese patrol boat, were involved in the search and rescue operation, which was being coordinated by the Italian coast guard in Rome.

"They are literally trying to find people alive among the dead floating in the water," he added.

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