The Italian coast guard says at least 92 people are dead after a boat carrying African migrants caught fire and capsized near the Italian island of Lampedusa on Thursday. The coast guard says about 150 people have been rescued and the search continues for missing passengers.
Officials say as many as 500 people were on the boat, most of them believed to be migrants from Eritrea or Somalia. The mayor of Lampedusa, Guisi Nicolini, says the boat caught fire after people set off flares to attract attention from passing ships.
Lampedusa, an island closer to continental Africa than to the Italian mainland, is often the destination for boats full of migrant workers seeking entrance to the European Union.
The United Nations refugee agency says the boat originated in Libya.
High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres expressed "shock" over the boat tragedy. He also expressed dismay at what he called a "rising global phenomenon" of people fleeing conflict or persecution, and perishing at sea. On Monday, 13 would-be migrants drowned off the coast of nearby Sicily after their boat sank and they tried to swim to shore.