Refugee boats from Libya capsize in Mediterranean, more than 200 presumed dead
Another boat filled with refugees capsized off the Italian island on Oct. 3, 2013. (AFP/File)
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At least 203 people are believed to have drowned after two inflatable boats carrying them across the Mediterranean Sea sank, the UNHCR's spokeswoman in Italy has reported in a series of tweets.
Carlotta Sami said on Twitter on Wednesday that nine survivors had managed to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa after spending "days and nights at sea."
Sami said in a series of tweets: "The tragedy is horrible and enormous.
"Nine are safe after four days at sea. The other 203 were swallowed by the waves."
'Lost at sea'
The two inflatables which capsized in the tragedy had left the Libyan coast Saturday and were believed to have each been carrying more than 100 Africans who were attempting to reach Italy from Libya, according to the International Organization for Migration (IMO).
Sami went on: "Of those who were lost at sea, the youngest was 12 years old.
"Survivors say there was another raft with them. They can't say what happened to those on board the other raft."
"They passed days and nights at sea in terror. They lost hundreds of fellow voyagers, but now they are safe," she said.
More than 3,400 people died while attempting to cross into Europe via sea in 2014, and 150,000 were rescued by the Italian navy, the UK charity the Refugee Council reported late last year.