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Aid group: 400 feared dead after migrant boat capsizes

Italy’s coastguard rescued 144 from ship off Libya, but survivors tell Save the Children that hundreds were on board.

Survivors of a capsized migrant boat off Libya have told the aid group Save the Children that an estimated 400 people are believed to have drowned.

The coastguard had helped rescue some 144 people on Monday and immediately launched an air and sea search operation in hopes of finding others. The coastguard said it assumed that there were many dead given the size of the ship and that nine bodies had been found.

The deaths, if confirmed, would add to the skyrocketing numbers of migrants lost at sea: The International Organization for Migration estimates that up to 3,072 migrants are believed to have died in the Mediterranean in 2014, compared to an estimate of 700 in 2013. The UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, said Italy’s coastguard had saved about 8,500 migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean since Friday.

“Those rescued since last Friday included an estimated 3,000 people in four boats and 16 dinghies rescued on Monday,” the agency said in a statement.

Earlier on Tuesday, the European Union’s top migration official said the EU must quickly adapt to the growing numbers of migrants trying to reach its shores.

“The unprecedented influx of migrants at our borders, and in particular refugees, is unfortunately the new norm and we will need to adjust our responses accordingly,” the EU’s commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, told lawmakers in Brussels.

More than 280,000 people entered the European Union illegally last year. Many came from Syria, Eritrea and Somalia and made the perilous sea journey from conflict-torn Libya.

European coast guards have been overwhelmed by the numbers. As the weather has begun to warm, even more people have been fleeing conflict and poverty for better lives in Europe. (Agencies)

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