At least seven people, including a pregnant woman, have drowned while 10 others are still missing after their boat carrying migrants and refugees capsized off the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Luigi Patronaggio, the chief prosecutor of a team-leading investigation into the deaths, said the drowned boat kicked off from Tunisia.
After the boat had overturned, coast guard units rescued some 46 migrants from the 8-meter-long vessel. The coast guard then brought them to the tiny Mediterranean island along with the bodies of those who drowned.
Lampedusa’s mayor, Toto Martello, said: “This latest tragedy in the Mediterranean is heartbreaking, I wonder what else has to happen to make Italy and Europe understand that we cannot go on like this.”
The Italian news agency ANSA reported that Italian police were at the scene and that a further at least 250 migrants reached the island starting early Wednesday morning on four vessels.
Only one of them, which was carrying Tunisians, managed to reach the port unassisted, according to the news agency.
Lampedusa is considered one of the main destinations of human traffickers.
Since the start of the year, 20,000 migrants and refugees fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East have arrived in the Italian island.
According to the latest figures from the Italian interior ministry, over 6,700 in the same period last year.
Nearly 700 people have died so far this year in the central Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe. This number is also up, from 248 during the same period last year.