Migrant deaths in the Mediterranean continue as 40 bodies found in hull of smugglers' boat

The people are believed to have suffocated while locked in the hold

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The Independent Online

At least 40 migrants have been found dead in the hold of a boat after reportedly suffocating while attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

The Italian navy announced the deaths this afternoon as the rescue operation continued for around 300 other passengers off the coast of Libya.

RaiNews24 TV, reporting from the naval coordination centre in Rome, said the dead migrants were found in the hold of an overcrowded smugglers' boat.

The latest tragedy came as 200 more people, including young children and teenagers, were taken to safety from another vessel by medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

The cause of today’s deaths has not been confirmed but people have suffocated to death before in locked holds packed far beyond their safe capacity by ruthless smugglers.

Migrants fleeing war and persecution have also been murdered, thrown overboard and died of dehydration on their journeys.

Earlier this month, at least 200 people were feared to have drowned near the Libyan coast when a boat meant to carry only 50 passengers capsized with 600 on board.

A record number of migrants are expected to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe this year and at least 2,000 have died making the voyage so far, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Additional reporting by AP