ROME – Fleeing poverty, war or other violence in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, migrants have died by the thousands in the Mediterranean over the years while trying to reach Europe.
The precise figure is unknown: Authorities only count the bodies found in the sea, on shore, or on board boats where migrants can die of thirst or exposure. Survivors often tell of fellow passengers who lost their lives at sea, but the bodies were never found — as may be the case with hundreds of people said to be missing after the capsizing of a boat off Libya on Sunday.
Military and civilian rescuers frequently find smaller numbers of bodies off the coasts of Libya and Italy. Here is a list of some of the deadliest migrant boat disasters, based on bodies recovered or survivor accounts:
Christmas, 1996: 300 believed drowned in the waters between Malta and Sicily.
June 20, 2003: 50 corpses found, 160 migrants missing, 41 survivors in a shipwreck off Tunisia.
Oct. 20, 2003: At least 70 dead in waters off Sicily.
May 12, 2008: 50 dead off Sicily, including 47 who died aboard after suffering from exposure.
May 6, 2011: Boat carrying more than 600 migrants is shipwrecked off Libyan coast. Hundreds reported missing.
June 2, 2011: At least 270 missing from boat that carried 700 aboard off Tunisian coast.
July 10, 2012: Motorized rubber dinghy deflates between Libya and tiny Sicilian island of Lampedusa, 54 dead.
December 2012: At least 21 people perish, and six listed as missing after boat sinks off Greek island of Lesbos.
Aug. 10, 2013: Six migrants drown, 94 rescued some 15 meters (50 feet) off a crowded swimming beach in Catania.
Oct. 3, 2013: 366 people die, 155 survive after shipwreck off Lampedusa, Italy.
February 2014: At least 15 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa die while swimming from Moroccan coast as they try to reach Spanish enclave of Ceuta. Rubber bullets were fired at them where they were in the seas.
Sept. 10, 2014: Some 500 Syrians, Palestinians, Egyptians and Sudanese are feared drowned after their boat was rammed by another boat of human traffickers off Malta.
January 2014: 12 people, most of them children, drown when boat overturns near Greek island of Farmakonis.
Sept. 14, 2014: Libyan navy reports 26 rescued from a boat carrying some 250 migrants off Libyan coast, some 200 missing and feared dead.
April 12, 2015: Boat capsizes off Libya, nine confirmed dead. Some of the 144 survivors tell aid workers that about 400 aboard drowned.