At least 40 migrants were found dead in the hold of a smuggling boat in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast, as the Italian navy rescued 320 others.
"The dead were found in the hold," Cmdr. Massimo Tosi, speaking from the navy ship Cigala Fulgosi while the rescue was still ongoing, according to The Associated Press. Asked by RaiNews24 how the migrants died, Tosi said "it appears to be from inhaling exhaust fumes."
"They are still counting the victims," Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told reporters.
As The Associated Press notes:
"Migrants by the tens of thousands are braving the perilous journey across the Mediterranean this year, hoping to reach Europe and be granted asylum. They are fleeing war, persecution and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. ...
Prior to Saturday's disaster, at least 2,100 migrants died at sea this year trying to make the crossing from the shores of Libya, where human traffickers are based, to Italy. Migration organizations say the Libya-to-Italy crossing is by far the deadliest. The exact toll of dead will never be known, as some boats are believed by authorities to have gone down at sea without rescuers being aware of them."