UN: 240 migrants are reported dead

MILAN (AP) — Survivors say as many as 240 people have died in two shipwrecks off Libya, the U.N. refugee agency reported Thursday, bringing this year’s toll to more than 4,220 migrants dead or missing in risky Mediterranean Sea crossings, the highest count on record.

Carlotta Sami, a UNHCR spokeswoman in Italy, said 31 survivors of two shipwrecks who arrived on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa reported that the rubber dinghies they were traveling in had capsized Wednesday in heavy seas shortly after leaving Libya.

The first dinghy — which carried around 140 people, including six children and about 20 women, some pregnant — sank when wooden planks laid at the bottom broke, causing the dinghy to capsize 25 miles off the Libyan coast, the UNHCR said.

Twenty-nine people were rescued, and 12 bodies were recovered.

In a separate operation, two women found swimming at sea told rescuers that 128 other people had died in their wreck.

“I am deeply saddened by another tragedy on the high seas,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.