Lampedusa boat sinking: At least 130 African migrants die and many more missing
At least 130 migrants have died and many more are missing after a boat carrying them to Europe sank off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.
A total of 103 bodies have been recovered and more have been found inside the wreck, coast guards say.
The African migrants reportedly threw themselves into the sea when a fire broke out on board. More than 150 of the passengers have been rescued.
Most of those on board were from Eritrea and Somalia, said the UN.
The boat was believed to have been carrying up to 500 people at the time and some 200 of them are unaccounted for.
Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said the ship had come from Misrata in Libya and began taking on water when its motor stopped working.
It is thought that some of those on board set fire to a piece of material to try to attract the attention of passing ships, only to have the fire spread to the rest of the boat.
It is one of the worst such disasters to occur off the Italian coast in recent years; Italian PM Enrico Letta tweeted that it was “an immense tragedy”. The government has declared a day of national mourning on Friday.
“There is no miraculous solution to the migrant exodus issue,” said Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino.
“If there were we would have found it and put it into action.”
In a separate incident on Thursday, local media reported that around 200 migrants were escorted to the port of Syracuse on the island of Sicily, when their vessel encountered difficulties five miles off the coast.
Earlier this week, 13 migrants drowned while trying to reach Sicily.