(By Estera Popowska)
Italian officials said Sunday that over 700 people are feared dead after an overcrowded boat smuggling them to Europe capsized off Libya, AFP reported.Only 28 people are reported to have survived a wreck that triggered fresh calls from Pope Francis and others for European leaders to act over what many saw as an avoidable tragedy.
AFP reported that the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said survivors' testimonies suggested there had been around 700 people on board the 20-metre (70-foot) fishing boat when it keeled over in darkness overnight.
UNHCR spokeswoman Carlotta Sami reportedly said “It seems we are looking at the worst massacre ever seen in the Mediterranean.”According to reports, a Bangladeshi survivor who was helicoptered to hospital in Sicily put the numbers on board at 950 and said 200 women and children had been among them, according to prosecutors in the city of Catania.
AFP says the latest disaster comes after a week in which two other migrant shipwrecks left an estimated 450 people dead. If confirmed, it will take the death toll since the start of 2015 to more than 1,600.
More than 11,000 other would-be immigrants have been rescued since the middle of last week and current trends suggest last year's total of 170,000 migrants landing in Italy is likely to be exceeded in 2015 (AFP)