Italian officials told Reuters that at least 194 people have died, with many more missing, after a boat carrying African migrants caught fire and sank off the coast of the Sicilian island Lampedusa.
Giusy Nicolini, the mayor of Lampedusa, said that the scene on the island was “like a cemetery” with the death toll steadily rising. Over 150 people were rescued but about 200 others were still unaccounted for, the Associated Press reported.
The coast guard reported there were between 400 and 500 migrants, mostly from Somalia and Eritrea, on the boat and around 150 people have been saved. A fishing boat is said to have raised the alarm around 7:20 a.m. local time, and began to help pull people from the water until a coast guard boat arrived.
This tragedy comes just four days after three migrants also drowned off the coast of eastern Sicily when their boat sank.
It is reported that thousands of migrants from Africa come to Italy on similarly unsafe, overcrowded boats. Most arrive at Lampedusa as it’s just 70 miles off the coast of Tunisia. Numbers of migrant workers coming to the small island have increased due to the civil war in Syria.