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Scores of Migrants Reported Missing Off Libyan Coast

FILE - Migrants receive medical treatment after being rescued at sea by the Libyan coast guard, in Tripoli, Libya, April 11, 2016.

Scores of migrants were missing Saturday off the Libyan coast after their inflatable boat took on water and sank, European monitors said.

The International Organization for Migration said 84 people remained missing at midday, hours after an Italian cargo ship rescued 26 people who had been aboard the doomed boat.

A spokesman for Italy's coast guard told reporters the migrants had come from several West African countries and had most likely left Libya on Friday. He said the cargo ship had found the migrant boat taking on water, with survivors saying many passengers had fallen overboard and drowned.

Television footage showed the cargo ship transferring survivors to a coast guard cutter, which in turn delivered them to a migrant camp on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The IOM said 1,244 migrants from Africa, the Middle East and South Asia have drowned so far this year while attempting to reach Europe by sea in overcrowded, unsafe vessels.

Earlier in April, witnesses and survivors told VOA that hundreds of migrants had drowned in the eastern Mediterranean when their boat overturned. The incident occurred April 8 but was not fully reported until 10 days later, after survivors were rescued adrift at sea.

Social media accounts described most of those migrants as Somalis trying to escape war and drought in their homeland.