40 migrants die off the coast of Libya

Some 40 African migrants are feared dead after their boat sank off Libya’s coast

Survivors say up to 40 African migrants are feared to have drowned when their rickety boat sank off the coast of Libya.

They told UN and aid agencies that more than 120 people were on the boat when it started taking in water on Wednesday.

The BBC reports that a number of people - including women and children - drowned in the chaos that followed with nearly 90 migrants getting rescued and taken to Italy.

All of the migrants are believed to have been from Sub-Saharan Africa, including Senegal, Mali and Benin, Save the Children spokeswoman Giovanna Di Benedetto told the BBC.

"My colleagues are interviewing the survivors... who arrived this afternoon in Augusta (Sicily), and they are talking of 35 to 40 people missing at sea," Federico Fossi, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency told AFP.

The survivors were picked up hours later by a passing merchant ship and brought to Sicily on an German military vessel operating in the area.

The UN says 60,000 people have already tried to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa this year, and more than 1,800 migrants have died - a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014. A shipwreck last April notably left nearly 800 people dead in the worst single incident to occur in the Mediterranean. The tragic event is considered the driving force behind long overdue EU discussions and a ten-point action plan designed to fight this crisis.

Each year, tens of thousands seek to escape from poverty and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East by heading for Europe.