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40 Migrants Dead Off Libyan Coast; 320 Rescued

This image taken from video provided by the Italian Navy (Marina Militare) Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, shows an Italian Navy RIB approaching a fishing boat crowded with migrants off the coast of Libya.

At least 40 migrants have died and 320 were rescued from an overcrowded smuggling boat in the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya.

The fatalities were believed caused by what appeared to be inhalation of exhaust fumes in the hold of the boat, the Italian navy said. The death toll was not yet final.

Europe has been flooded by tens of thousands of desperate migrants fleeing poverty and armed conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Friday that the number of migrants and asylum seekers who have been arriving in Europe stand at 230,000 as of July 31, 2015, and is expected to reach a quarter-million by the end of August. This is a significant increase from the 219,000 in all of 2014.

The IOM also noted that deaths at sea are at record levels this year, with at least 2,300 fatalities taking place while people were attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea for a better life in Europe.