UNHCR: 700 feared dead in the Mediterranean Sea

According to multiple sources The United Nations Refugee Agency released a statement Sunday saying that up to 700 migrants trying to reach Europe are feared to have died in three shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea off Libyan over the past few days.

Spokeswoman for UNHCR, Carlotta Sami said that approximately 100 people are missing from one of the smugglers’ boats that capsized Wednesday, 550 migrants and refugees are missing from the second boat that capsized Thursday and that 45 bodies were found dead and many more are missing from a third shipwreck that occurred Friday.

According to Sami, the second boat was carrying close to 670 people when it suddenly started taking in water after about eight hours on the sea. The boat did not have a motor and was being towed by another smuggler’s boat. After efforts to empty the water with cans, the commander of the first boat eventually decided to cut the tow rope to the sinking boat.

The people on the top deck, according to the sources, jumped into the sea, while those below deck, believed to be close to 300 people, sank with the ship. Only 90 of those who were able to jump off the boat were rescued; the rest of them are believed to have drowned.

Sources say survivors were taken to the Italian ports of Taranto and Pozzallo and that the U.N. agency is trying to gather information in a sensitive manner, having in mind that most of them might be traumatized by what they saw and experienced out on the sea.