UNHCR : Hundreds dead in shipwrecks off Libya

UN refugee agency says survivor accounts indicate as many as 240 people have died in two shipwrecks off Libya

File photo from an Italian Navy rescue mission
File photo from an Italian Navy rescue mission

At least 240 people are believed to have drowned in two shipwrecks off the coast of Libya.

The UNHCR refugee agency said survivors brought ashore on the Italian island of Lampedusa said that hundreds of people had perished at sea.

No bodies have so far been recovered. UNHCR spokeswoman Carlotta Sami said 31 survivors of two shipwrecks who arrived at Lampedusa on Thursday reported that their boats capsized in heavy seas.

Sami said 29 people survived the first wreck, reporting that about 120 people had gone missing.

And in a separate operation, two women found swimming at sea told rescuers another 120 people had died in that wreck.

In both cases, most of the people on board appeared to have been sub-Saharan Africans, but Sami said aid workers were still ascertaining details.

According to the International Organization of Migration more than 4,200 asylum seekers have died making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea this year,

The UN has warned 2016 could be the deadliest for migrants making the journey.

Nearly 330,000 migrants have crossed the sea so far this year, compared with more than one million in 2015.

Many of those killed in the latest incident are believed to be migrants from West Africa.