Hundreds of migrants were feared dead Sunday after a boat carrying up to 700 people capsized in the Mediterranean Sea.

The Italian Coast Guard said the vessel was carrying 500 to 700 people when the incident happened around midnight local time, the BBC reported.

The coast guard said at least 24 people were confirmed dead, but the death toll is expected to rise into the hundreds, the Associated Press reported.

Tens of thousands are fleeing chaos in North Africa and the Middle East for Europe.

The news agency reported that the coast guard said the 66-foot boat was reported to be sinking as the King Jacob, a Portuguese-registered merchant ship, approached to attempt a rescue. The ship recovered 28 people before the vessel overturned.

The coast guard said it may have capsized “because its occupants moved to the side closest to the cargo ship,” said the AP.

The incident happened about 120 miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa, off Libyan waters… see more

source: usatoday