700 migrants are feared drowned 40 miles off the Libyan coast after an overloaded boat capsized early this morning. A Portuguese merchant ship was directed to the scene (as the nearest vessel) but has succeeded in rescuing only 20 people. Other ships are now there searching for survivors but there is little hope. The merchant ship reported it had done everything it could but is not equipped for such a huge rescue operation.
The first refugees to reach Italy have said there were 950 people aboard the lost boat of which 200 were women and 50 children. Many had been locked into the hold. So far only 40 people have been saved. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi returned to Rome early this morning from campaigning in local elections to organise help but stated this afternoon that the rescue ships reaching the scene were now "searching for the living among the floating corpses". Only now is their some kind of response from other European governments; some expressions of the need to help Italy cope, after such a long term, disgraceful disregard of the situation here.
The migrants were from: Algeria, Egypt, Somalia, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Zambia, Bangladesh, Ghana.