400 migrants die in shipwreck off Libya, survivors say

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By Steve Scherer and Gavin Jones

ROME – About 400 migrants died in an attempt to reach Italy from Libya when their boat capsized, survivors said , the latest tragedy in the Mediterranean where the death toll from shipwrecks has surged this year.

The boat, carrying about 550 migrants in , flipped about 24 hours after leaving the Libyan coast, according to some the 150 survivors who were rescued and brought to a southern Italian morning, Save the reported.

Before this incident there had already been more than 500 migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Africa this year, up sharply from 47 in the same period 2014, said the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration ().

The survivors of the latest shipwreck were mostly sub-Saharan Africans, but no further details were available, a Save the told Reuters. It was not clear exactly when the boat had capsized.

The number of boats carrying migrants aiming to reach the EU from Africa has picked up in recent weeks as fine spring weather makes the passage safer. In February, more than 300 drowned when attempting the crossing in cold weather and rough seas.

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Save the , the and other humanitarian have called for the European Union to bolster its sea rescue operations before the migrant flows soar as they usually do in the summer .

Monday, 2,851 migrants were saved in rescue operations in the Mediterranean, the Italian coastguard said, adding to at least nine who died and 5,629 who were saved over the weekend.

Italy, which handled the largest number of migrant arrivals in the EU, has become increasingly alarmed about the breakdown of law and order in Libya, which has greatly exacerbated the task of tackling the migrant flows. Libya is to rival governments, loosely aligned militia and a growing militant Islamist .