Dozens were rescued but around 200 people are still missing after a boat carrying migrants from Libya sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa.
The overcrowded vessel, thought to be carrying mainly Eritrean and Somali nationals, went down in stormy seas.
Coastal patrols had spotted it was in difficulty but their intervention made matters much worse, according to one survivor.
“The Italian ship was very far from our boat and its approach lasted an hour as its engine was turned off,” Abdel Karim, 45, told Italian television. “As it got closer, panic spread among us. We crowded together on one side of our boat when the ship was a metre from us and that is when we capsized.”
It is a stark illustration of the risks run by migrants desperate to get to Europe.
Thousands fleeing political turmoil in Tunisia have made the crossing to Lampedusa this year, overwhelming the tiny island’s infrastructure. In recent days, increasing numbers have arrived from Libya.