At least 40 African migrants died in the hold of a boat off Italy today (August 15, 2015), as the European Union (EU) struggled to cope with "the worst refugee crisis since World War II," with thousands making dangerous crossings to reach Italy and Greece, according to the AFP (Agence France-Presse) website.
"Operation under way... many migrants saved. At least 40 dead," the Italian navy said on Twitter, while an Italian newspaper said those who died were found in the hold of the vessel, apparently having suffocated below deck.
An Italian navy helicopter had spotted the boat, which was "overcrowded and starting to sink," about 21 nautical miles off the Libyan coast, south of the Italian island of Lampedusa.
Almost 400 other migrants were picked up in the Mediterranean Sea today by other vessels taking part in the EU's patrol and rescue operation, called Triton.