Hundreds of migrants died crossing Mediterranean, say survivors

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ROME. KAZINFORM - Survivors of a deadly migrant crossing of the Mediterranean to Italy said more than 300 people died at sea, according to media reports on Wednesday.

Survivors said they left the Libyan coast last Saturday on four inflatable boats believed to carry around 100 people each. The Italian Coast Guard, after receiving an alarm call from a satellite phone, rescued more than 100 migrants from two of the boats struggling with freezing temperatures and eight-meter-tall waves. Later, 29 of the rescued migrants, including a 12-year-old girl, were reported to have died of hypothermia, most of them while being transported by two guard ships to Lampedusa Island, between Libya and the island of Sicily, Xinhua reports. ANSA news agency said on Wednesday that local authorities were sizing up the testimony of survivors and patrolling the area where the wreckage was thought to have occurred. Lampedusa, which marks Italy's southernmost border, is seen as a preferred gateway to Europe for migrants from North African and troubled Middle Eastern countries. The UN refugee agency UNHCR has urged the beefing of up search and rescue capacity, saying the number of migrants trying the crossing on smugglers' boats in the first weeks of 2015 was significantly higher compared to the same period in 2014. More than 218,000 people crossed the Mediterranean by irregular routes last year and about 3,500 lost their lives in the perilous attempt, according to UNHCR.

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