The Italian foreign minister told Reuters on Monday that a “tragedy” took place in the Mediterranean Sea, following several reports expressing fear that many persons died after boats capsized.
Those on board were believed to have disembarked from Egypt’s northern coast, fleeing from economic and political conditions in East Africa, tentatively reported as Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
BBC Arabic reported that most of the persons believed to be missing are Somali. The network spoke with an official in Somalia’s embassy in Egypt who expressed fear that over 400 are thought to have drowned after their boats capsized.
The Somali Embassy in Cairo refused to confirm or deny the incident when contacted by Daily News Egypt.
At the time of print, the validity of the story has not been confirmed as news outlets have reported multiple incidents in the Mediterranean without positing a clear relation between the events.
Among the reported accounts, Deutche Welle quotes the Italian Coast Guard as validating an SOS Mediterranee rescue mission near the island of Lampedusa. The French humanitarian group found six corpses in a rubber dingy while it rescued 100 others from the water. Two passengers remain missing and are thought to be dead.
In another reported incident, the Italian coast guard rescued 33 migrants near a small island off the coast of Sicily.
The survivors were taken to one of the Greek islands.
In the first sign of a large wave of migration, approximately 6,000 sailed from the coast of North Africa to Italy last week, reported the International Organisation for Migration.
“What is sure is that we are again with a tragedy in the Mediterranean, exactly one year after the tragedy we had … in Libyan waters,” Italy’s foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni was quoted by Reuters as saying, referring to the incident that happened in Libya in April 2015 when a fishing boat full of refugees sank in the Mediterranean, killing 800 people.
Italian president Sergio Mattarella said that the incident should ignite profound reflection. “There is truly a need to think,” he said.
According to the United Nations, 800 people have died in 2016 trying to reach Europe.