A boat packed with an estimated 250 refugees and migrants has capsized in the middle of the Mediterranean, just a week after a similar accident off the Italian island of Lampedusa left more than 300 people dead.
At least 200 people were reported to have been thrown into the sea after the boat tipped over yesterday and corpses were reportedly floating in the water.
According to Italian media reports, at least 12 people died in the incident and 50 are still missing, among them children, but up to 200 people have been rescued.
Helicopters were taking the injured to the Sicilian island. Coastguard spokesman Marco Di Milla said "a good number" of the estimated 200 people have been rescued. He said the coastguard received a satellite phone call from the boat and was able to locate it based on the satellite coordinates.
A Maltese armed forces statement said that since the boat was in the island's search and rescue waters, a Maltese aircraft was scrambled and reported that the boat had capsized and that "numerous" people were in the water.
The aircraft dropped a life raft and a patrol boat soon arrived at the scene.
Ships and helicopters from Italy were also rushed to the scene to rescue the survivors.
The capsizing happened around 60 miles south of Lampedusa, in waters where Malta has search and rescue responsibilities.
Malta immediately requested Italian assistance in going to the aid of the migrants.
The incident occurred a week after a boat carrying more than 500 mostly Eritrean refugees capsized half a nautical mile off Lampedusa.
Around 150 people survived but divers have recovered more than 310 bodies from the sunken wreck of the vessel.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 32,000 have arrived in southern Italy and Malta this year alone, around two thirds of whom have filed requests for asylum.
Many of them make for Lampedusa, which is Italy's southernmost territory and just 80 miles from the coast of Tunisia. (© Daily Telegraph, London)