At least 93 undocumented migrants died when a boat carrying some 500 people capsized off the Italian island of Lampedusa, while more than 250 are still missing, rescue teams said Thursday.
Four children were among those killed, while Giusi Nicolini - the mayor of that Mediterranean island located south of Sicily - told Italian media that the survivors included a man suspected of being the people smuggler.
Nicolini said the survivors told her they had been stranded at sea for several hours and decided to set off flares to attract passing ships.
The vessel caught fire - forcing many migrants to jump into the sea - and later capsized, Nicolini added.
Antonio Candela, the government's health commissioner for the southern city of Palermo, said 150 migrants had been rescued, including dozens of children - some just a few months old - and pregnant women.
He said the survivors were in good condition and none needed to be hospitalized.
The immigrants told Italian authorities they were from Eritrea and Somalia and that the group of between 450 and 500 people had departed from the Libyan coast.
Italy's coast guard and border police headed the operation, although fishermen and private vessels also lent assistance.
More than 460 undocumented migrants arrived in another boat overnight in Lampedusa and were taken to a migrant processing center that was currently operating at beyond full capacity.
This was the latest in a series of migrant tragedies in recent weeks.
On Sept. 30, 13 undocumented immigrants died when they were forced by smugglers to jump into the water off the coast of Sicily despite not knowing how to swim.
On Aug. 10, six undocumented migrants, including a minor, died while trying to swim to the coast of Sicily after the fishing trawler carrying them and dozens of other people from Syria and Egypt ran aground. EFE