More than 30 migrants including young children have drowned off the coast of Libya as they crossed the Mediterranean to start a new life in Europe.
More than 200 people without life jackets were thrown from their rickety boat moments before they could be hauled into waiting rescue vessels.
‘At least 20 dead bodies were spotted in the water,’ said Italian Coast Guard commander Cosimo Nicastro.
‘Not a scene from a horror movie,’ he wrote on Twitter alongside a photo of dozens of migrants floating in the sea, their flimsy smugglers’ boat in the background.
He added: ‘Real life tragedy unfolding on Europe’s doorstep today!’
The rescue group MOAS, which also had a ship nearby, said it had already recovered more than 30 bodies.
‘Most are toddlers,’ the group’s co-founder Chris Catrambone said on Twitter.
The coast guard called in more ships to help with the rescue, saying about 1,700 people were packed into about 15 vessels in the area.