Up to 400 illegal migrants trying to reach Europe have died after their boat capsized off the Libyan coast, say survivors who were saved and brought to Italy.
The Italian coastguard had previously said that they managed to rescue 144 of the people after the vessel capsized on Sunday, while nine bodies were also recovered.
Quoting survivors, the International Organisation for Migration and the charity Save the Children said between 144 and 150 survivors arrived on Tuesday morning at Reggio Calabria, located on Italy’s southern tip.
‘There were 400 victims in this shipwreck, which occurred 24 hours after (their vessel) left the Libyan coast,’ Save the Children said in a statement, citing survivors.
‘There were several young males, probably minors, among the victims,’ the international NGO said, adding that there were also children among the survivors.
IOM spokesman in Italy Flavio Di Giacomo told AFP his organisation has also interviewed several survivors, who said there were between 500 and 550 people on board when the ship sank.
‘We are continuing to investigate in order to understand how the shipwreck happened,’ Di Giacomo said.
According to initial findings, the boat may have capsized after passengers started moving when they saw the Italian rescue team.
On Tuesday, the coastguard said its teams had rescued nearly 8000 people at sea since Friday.
Recent good weather in the Mediterranean has prompted a surge in the number of migrants attempting to reach Italy aboard boats.
An increasingly violent and chaotic situation in Libya, a key jumping off point for migrants, has also helped prompt the huge hike in the number of asylum seekers trying to make it to Europe.
According to Italian authorities more than 15,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far in 2015. There were 15,000 in April alone last year and an average of 25,000 each month between June and September.
People smuggling remains a lucrative business for traffickers, with refugees and migrants rescued in the Mediterranean in February saying they paid up to $US1,000 ($A1,320) for their crossing in boats that are often no more than rubber dinghies.