Survivors rescued from a migrant boat that capsized off the coast of Libya say up to 400 people traveling with them drowned in the accident. Authorities saved dozens from the vessel, which was en route to Europe.
The boat was believed to be carrying up to 550 people when it flipped soon after leaving Libya for Italy, according to survivors who spoke to aid group Save the Children on Tuesday.
Italy's Coast Guard said around 144 people were saved from the wreck on Monday and brought to the southern Italian port of Reggio Calabria where they were interviewed the following morning.
"There were 400 victims in this shipwreck, which occurred 24 hours after (their vessel) left the Libyan coast," the NGO said in a statement, citing survivors. "There were several young males, probably minors, among the victims."
Most of the survivors are sub-Saharan Africans, the organization said.
According to the coast guard, nearly 8,000 people were rescued at sea from Friday to Tuesday.
It's believed warmer weather and safer sea conditions in recent weeks have led to an increase in the number of migrant boats trying to cross the Mediterranean.
More than 300 people drowned in February attempting to make the sea crossing from North Africa to Italy. Last year alone, more than 3,500 people lost their lives while making the dangerous journey.
nm/bw (Reuters, AP, AFP)