Over 700 migrants may have drowned in Med in the last week, UN claims

More than 700 migrants may have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe in the last few days, according to the UN. Its refugee agency, the UNHCR, said the migrants had died after their unseaworthy boats sank south of Italy. Spokeswoman Carlotta Sami said an estimated 100 people are missing from a boat which capsized on Wednesday, while 45 bodies were also recovered from a wreck that happened on Friday, with 135 rescued. However the biggest tragedy appears to have been on Thursday when 500 people may have died, according to witnesses.

We’ll never know the exact number, we’ll never know their identity, but survivors tell that over 500 human beings died.

UNHCR spokeswoman Carlotta Sami

Ms Sami said one fishing boat was tied to another when one of the vessels began to sink. "The first boat, carrying some 500 people, was reportedly towing the second, which was carrying another 500,“ Ms Sami told the AFP news agency. "But the second boat began to sink. Some people tried to swim to the first boat, others held onto the rope linking the vessels,” she said. Survivors said the Sudanese captain cut the rope which snapped back and decapitated a woman. The second boat then quickly sank, killing the people packed into its hold. The captain and three suspected people smugglers were arrested by Italian officials, according to local media. The boats are believed to have set out from Libya on Wednesday - and 40 children are thought to be among the dead.

For two hours we fought against the water but it was useless. It began to flood the boat, and those below deck had no chance. Woman, men, children, many children, were trapped, and drowned.

Survivor speaking to Italy’s La Stampa