Rescuers at the scene of a Mediterranean shipwreck feared to have claimed 700 lives are searching for survivors among corpses floating in the water, Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says.
“They are literally trying to find people alive among the dead floating in the water. This could possibly be the biggest tragedy to have ever taken place in the Mediterranean,” Muscat says at a political meeting.
“Children, men, and women have died.”
A Maltese patrol boat is among 17 vessels at the scene.
Italy’s coastguard says 28 people were known so far to have survived the overnight capsize of a packed fishing boat that was attempting to smuggle hundreds of migrants from Libya to Italy. The coastguard says 24 bodies had been recovered, an unchanged tally from several hours earlier.
Muscat says the tragedy was further evidence that Italy and Malta needed more support from their European partners in dealing with the migrant crisis.
“Although we are seeing encouraging signs from European politicians, action must be taken,” he said. “There is a tragedy going on in the Mediterranean. A time will come when Europe will be judged harshly for its inaction as it was judged when it had turned a blind eye to genocide.”