ROME: Over 200 migrants attempting the perilous journey across the Mediterranean were feared to have drowned Wednesday after their overcrowded fishing boat capsized off Libya.
The boat, believed to have been carrying over 600 migrants including women and children, ran into difficulty about 15 nautical miles off Libya and sent out a distress call, which was picked up by the coastguard in Sicily.
Coastguard spokesman Filippo Marini said around 400 people had been rescued from the water while 25 bodies had been recovered.
Irish patrol vessel LE Niamh and a ship deployed by medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) were among the first to be dispatched.
According to the Irish authorities, 367 people, including 12 women and 13 children, had been rescued.
Six other people, including a baby no more than a year old and a survivor with a broken leg were taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa, Federico Fossi, spokesman in Italy for the UN refugee agency, told AFP.
While the sea was very calm, “the boat overturned and sank quickly because it was made of metal,” Fossi added.
The agency’s chief spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said on Twitter that “100 (migrants) were in the hull” of the fishing vessel when it capsized.
Seven ships, several helicopters and a drone were helping search for survivors.
More than 2,000 people have already died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe this year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Tuesday.
Wednesday’s disaster could be the worst since 800 migrants were feared drowned off Libya in April.
Also on Wednesday, 94 people on board a rubber boat were rescued in a separate operation, coastguards told AFP.