At least 94 African migrants who were attempting to reach Italy have died in a shipwreck off the Italian coast, according to reports Thursday.
The Associated Press reports that hundreds were aboard a ship when it caught fire near the Italian island of Lampedusa, which is in the Mediterranean Sea. More than 150 were rescued, with at least 200 unaccounted for, meaning the number of dead will likely increase.
Estimates say there were as many as 500 aboard. Most could not swim, reports the Associated Press.
“Unfortunately we don’t need ambulances, but hearses,” Pietro Bartolo, a doctor at the Lampedusa hospital told Sky News. “In terms of its magnitude it’s an unprecedented tragedy. In many years of work I’ve never seen anything quite like this.”
According to the UN, the people on the boat are thought to be Eritreans coming from Libya.
Lampedusa, a small Sicilian island, is nearer to the Tunisian shoreline than it is to Italy. It is a main point of entry for many illegal migrants from Africa.
Pope Francis visited Lampedusa in July, where he called for more attention to be paid to the plight of refugees.