|Dead bodies are covered with sheets at the port of Lampedusa|
Italian coast guard Commander Floriana Segreto told that at least 73 people had been confirmed dead with another 151 people rescued, adding that "lots more" people remained in the water. Citing authorities, Reuters later reported the death toll had reached 92.
Officials said there were between 400 and 500 migrants on the boat when it sank in the Mediterranean Sea off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.Lampedusa Mayor Giusy Nicolini told Reuters the death toll was rising and the victims were mostly Somalis and Eritreans.
"It's horrific, like a cemetery, they are still bringing them out," Nicolini said, adding that the dead included at least one child and a pregnant woman.
Coast guard ships and helicopters from across the region, as well as local fishing boats were on the scene trying to find survivors, coast guard spokesman Marco Di Milla told The Associated Press.
The vessel was thought to have left Libya, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.
|some of the passengers rescued near Lampedusa early on Thursday.|
Thursday's migrant shipwreck was one of the deadliest in recent times and the second one this week off Italy: On Monday, 13 men drowned while trying to reach southern Sicily when their ship ran aground just a few yards from shore.
According to the U.N. refugee agency, 8,400 migrants landed in Italy and Malta in the first six months of the year, almost double the 4,500 who arrived during the first half of 2012.The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees had recorded 40 deaths in the first half of 2013 for migrants arriving in Italy and Malta, and a total of 500 for all of 2012, based on interviews with survivors. Fortress Europe, an Italian observatory that tracks migrant deaths reported by the media, says about 6,450 people died in the Canal of Sicily between 1994 and 2012.