A major rescue operation has taken place after more than 700 migrants from Africa, attempting to cross the Mediterranean, drowned due to their overcrowded boat tipping over near the Libyan coast, Italy’s coast guard said on Wednesday.
Around 267 migrants were saved by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), during a save and rescue mission, while the search continues for the remaining people, the coast guard said.
The exact number of how many people have died has not yet been determined, but "there are bodies in the water," a communications officer for Doctors Without Borders said.
According to the Independent, the Italian officials confirmed that at least 25 bodies have already been recovered from the fatal incident, and it is unlikely that there will be any more survivors.
The search operation for the survivors involved seven ships as well as helicopters.
An Irish navy vessel was the first aid vessel to arrive at the scene and spotted 150 people overboard.
Dignity 1, a MSF rescue vessel, later came to the rescue, offering assistance.
At least three other vessels, including MY Phoenix, which is operated by the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), are reported to be on their way.
The boat carrying the migrants is believed to have left from the Libyan city of Zuwara early Wednesday morning, but it is still unclear as to what actually happened once it was at sea.
After sunrise, the boat relayed its coordinates to the Italian Coast Guard, which in turn radioed Dignity 1 and MY Phoenix, according to MY Phoenix's crew.
The Dignity 1, the closest to the boat's location, proceeded to the area first, but was held up when it spotted another capsized boat carrying migrants, from which it rescued 94 people, including 17 women and a five-year-old boy.
With record number of migrants who were aboard the boat, this incident could be among the worst disasters at sea since April, when another overcrowded boat carrying migrants flipped over leaving 800 people dead.
The central Mediterranean route has become the deadliest sea route for migrants seeking better life conditions, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) reported.
In the same period last year, 1,607 migrants lost their lives at sea and throughout 2014, 3,279 people were recorded to have been killed, attempting to go through with their journey, IMO added.