More than 90 asylum seekers were drowned off the coast of Sicily after their boat capsized. The death toll is expected to rise.
A boat carrying an estimated 500 people caught fire and capsized near the southern Italian island of Lampedusa early Thursday morning.
A fishing boat is reported to have raised the alarm after rescuing around 150 people.
The death toll rose to at least 133 after rescue workers with the coast guard found 40 bodies offshore later in the day.
Lampedusa coast guard official Floriana Segreto said he could confirm that bodies had been recovered from the sea and more were feared dead.
The mayor of Lampedusa, Giusi Nicolini, confirmed the migrants rescued so far were from sub-Saharan Africa.
Coast guard and police vessels were trawling the waters, and helicopters were also sent to the scene.
It's the second such incident involving migrants near the Italian coast this week.
On Monday, up to 13 asylum seekers drowned as they tried to swim ashore after their boat ran aground off the coast of eastern Sicily.
lw/mz (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)