A boat packed with migrants from Africa overturned in the Mediterranean Sea on Wednesday, pitching passengers into the water, the Italian coastguard said.

About 700 people had been aboard the boat, SkyNews24 TV channel said. Italian and Irish naval vessels were trying to resuce survivors.

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A coastguard spokesman confirmed that an overcrowded boat overturned off the Libyan coast just as ships came to its rescue but he could not say how people were aboard or how many had been saved because the operation was still going on.

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The Mediterranean Sea is the world’s most deadly border area for immigrants.

More than 2,000 migrants and refugees have died so far this year in attempts to reach Europe by boat, compared with 3,279 deaths during the whole of last year, the International Organization for Migration said on Tuesday.

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