At least 25 people have died off the coast of Libya, after an overcrowded fishing boat wrecked with hundreds of migrants aboard. The Italian Coast Guard rescued some 400 of the migrants, who had been hoping to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
The U.N. Refugee Agency’s chief spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, says that 600 people were aboard the boat, with “100 in the hull.” She adds, “The boat capsized very fast.”
It’s possible the number of casualties could rise sharply; media reports from Italy and elsewhere suggest that as many as 200 people remain unaccounted for.
“Italian and Irish rescuers, and the group Doctors Without Borders, are all on the scene, scrambling to pluck survivors from choppy waters,” NPR’s Lauren Frayer reports from Madrid. “Some migrants may have drowned within view of rescuers, as they rushed to one side of the boat to wave for help and ended up toppling into the sea.”
Lauren adds, “More than 2,000 migrants have died in the Mediterranean so far this year.”