Italian coastguards were trying to rescue migrants lost at sea today after their boat capsized off the coast of Lampedusa, a tiny Italian island close to North Africa, officials said, but many were feared dead.
Seamen have so far saved 48 out of 200 people believed to have been aboard the rickety boat, said Pietro Carosia of the Italian Coast Guard.
But helicopters have spotted a number of corpses in the sea, Mr Carosia said, declining to provide a number.
The ANSA news agency said about 20 bodies had been spotted so far.
The rescue operation was hampered by strong winds and rough waters, ANSA added.
Thousands of people - mostly Tunisians - have arrived from North Africa on Italy's shores in recent weeks, fleeing the turmoil that has engulfed the region.