Cyprus Mail

PM Renzi says Italy, Malta rescuing 2 migrant boats in distress

Surviving immigrants lie on the deck of Italian coastguard ship Bruno Gregoretti in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand Harbour April 20, 2015

Italy and Malta are working to rescue two migrant boats in distress in the Mediterranean, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday, after hundreds were feared dead in a shipwreck over the weekend.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the death toll from the weekend’s shipwreck would be 900 people if reports were confirmed. So far, 28 people have been rescued and 24 bodies recovered, and officials had said the total number of people on the boat was around 700.

Renzi said the number of distress calls from migrant boats, often packed with people fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East in search of a better life in Europe, was rising.

One of the two vessels in distress is a rubber boat about 30 miles from the coast of Libya with 100-150 people on board and the other is a larger boat with around 300 on board, Renzi said.

Renzi repeated a call he made over the weekend for an emergency meeting of European Union leaders to address the crisis.

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