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It is thought up to 600 migrants were on the boat. About 400 have been rescued and at least 25 bodies recovered. The European Comission has made a statement.
Search teams in the Mediterranean say they don't expect to find any more survivors from a boat carrying around 600 migrants which sank off Libya.
Officials initially feared hundreds had drowned but the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said 400 people were rescued. The Italian coast guard said 25 bodies have been recovered so far but it is unclear how many people are missing.
It is thought up to 600 migrants were on the boat, many believed to have been kept in the hull. The boat is believed to have hit rough weather 15 miles off the Libyan coast, and made a distress call that was received in Sicily.
An Irish rescue vessel, LÉ Niamh, and Dignity I, a boat operated by Doctors without Borders (MSF in French), were dispatched to the area. They were later joined by three other ships and a helicopter.
But when the boats launched, the migrants apparently moved to one side of the fishing boat, causing it to capsize.
Melissa Fleming, a UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokeswoman, said about 100 people are thought to have been travelling in the boat's hull at the time, adding: "The boat capsized very fast".
UNHCR believed there was not likely to be any more information until survivors are interviewed by aid workers and Italian officials this Thursday morning.
“We believe the boat was carrying about 600 people, but we will never really know how many sank,” Fleming added.
Seven ships as well as helicopters have been involved in the search operation.
"Those that were on deck would have managed to jump, some of them drowned and some of them were saved," said Martin Xuereb of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station in Malta, one the groups involved in the rescue effort.
"I think it's unlikely that any additional survivors will be picked up", Xuereb commented.
"It was a horrific sight, people desperately clinging to lifebelts, boats and anything they could to fight for their lives," Juan Matias, an MSF project co-ordinator on the Dignity I, explained in a statement.
"The fact that we were first called to assist this boat and then shortly afterwards sent to another one highlights the severe lack of resources available for rescue operations", Matias said.
MSF stated that the latest tragedy highlighted the “severe lack of resources” available for rescue operations. It said its vessel received a call from Rome’s Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre at 9am, but while on route rescued 94 other people.
That rescue operation was complete at 12:30. As it approached the troubled vessel, which it said was wooden, not metal, as was previously reported, it realised that the boat had already capsized.
EUROPEAN COMMISSION STATEMENT
The First Vice-President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the EU Commission, Federica Mogherini, and Migration and Home Affairs Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, have held a press conference this Thursday, to make an statement on this incident.
They have congratulated “the Italian Coast Guard, the Frontex-deployed assets and boats operated by Médecins Sans Frontières and Migrant Offshore Aid Station for their relentless efforts to save lives, today and in the past.”
In the statement, the European Commission also assured that they are “working hard to prevent these terrible tragedies. We have tripled the resources dedicated to search and rescue efforts at sea”,
According to the Commission, that will be possible with a united effort of “member States, EU institutions, International Organisations, civil society, local authorities and third countries.”
“Just one life lost is one too many”, the statement argues.