A shipwreck Wednesday off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa has killed at least 94, after an African ship caught fire and capsized. The death toll is likely to rise according to Pietro Bartolo, the chief of health services on Lampedusa.
"We need only caskets, certainly not ambulances," Bartolo told CNN.
The boat is reported to have been ferrying an estimated 500 immigrants from Somalia, Ghana, and Eritrea. The migrants are believed to have boarded the boat from off the coast of Tripoli, a mere 70 miles from Lampedusa. Lampedusa has been known as a common destination for refugees to enter European Union countries.
Giusi Nicolini, the mayor of Lampedusa, told reporters before the boat capsized, it caught fire from flares being used to catch the attention of ships passing by.
Although 159 people have been rescued from amidst the wreckage, 200 people still remain unaccounted.
Coast guard spokesman Marco Di Milla told AP that local fishing boats and helicopters have all joined efforts to search for more survivors along the coast.
Amtpmoa Giterres, head of the U.N. refugee agency, applauded Italy's quick response to the disaster. Giterres also told CNN he is "dismayed at the rising global phenomenon of migrants and people fleeing conflict or persecution and perishing at sea."
On Monday, 13 men perished off the southern coast of Italy as they attempted to swim from their boat that ran aground a few yards from shore.
The U.N. refugee agency has reported an increase of migrants taking refuge in Italy this year. From January through June, 8,400 migrants came to Italy. That's nearly double the 4,500 people who migrated during the same period in 2012.