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Hundreds trapped in boat capsized off Libya

By The Citizen
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A smuggler's boat crammed with hundreds of people overturned off Libya's coast as rescuers approached, causing what could be the Mediterranean's deadliest known migrant tragedy and intensifying pressure on the European Union to finally meet demands for decisive action.

Survivor accounts of the number aboard the 20-metre vessel varied, with the Italian Coast Guard saying that the capsized boat had a capacity for 'hundreds' of people.

Italian prosecutors said a Bangladeshi survivor flown to Sicily for treatment told them 950 people were on board, including hundreds who had been locked in the hold by smugglers. Earlier, authorities said a survivor told them 700 migrants were aboard.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said authorities were 'not in a position to confirm or verify' how many were on board when the boat set out from Libya.

Eighteen ships joined the rescue effort, but only 28 survivors and 24 bodies had been pulled from the water by nightfall, Renzi said.

These small numbers make more sense if hundreds of people were locked in the hold, because with so much weight down below, 'surely the boat would have sunk', said General Antonino Iraso, of the Italian Border Police, which has deployed boats in the operation.

The incident happened in an area just off Libyan waters, 193km south of Lampedusa island, according to a report in theĀ Times of Malta's website. Ajazeera