-- As many as 500 people are feared dead after a migrant ship sank in the Mediterranean Sea, the United Nation's refugee agency (UNHCR) reported today.
The UNHCR said in a press release that if that number is confirmed, this "could be one of the worst tragedies involving refugees and migrants in the last 12 months."
A UNHCR team interviewed some of the 41 survivors (37 men, three women, and a 3-year-old child) who were rescued by a merchant ship and taken to the Greek city of Kalamata on April 16. The survivors, who were of Somali, Ethiopian, Egyptian, and Sudanese decent, told the UNHCR that their group of 100 to 200 people, which departed last week from Libya on a smaller ship, was transferred to the larger boat by their smugglers.
That boat carried hundreds of people "in terribly overcrowded conditions," according to the UNHCR.
As refugees boarded the larger ship, it capsized and began to sink. Most of the survivors had not yet boarded the sinking ship. Others were able to swim back to the smaller vessel.
The group spent "possibly" three days at sea before being rescued, according to the UNHCR.
The survivors are currently living in temporary housing at the local stadium of Kalamata.