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Summary

  1. Hundreds of people feared to have drowned after a boat carrying up to 700 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea
  2. Major rescue operation ongoing after the vessel capsized in Libyan waters south of Italy's island of Lampedusa
  3. Italian ships, the Maltese Navy and commercial vessels are all involved in the rescue operation
  4. If confirmed, it would be the biggest migrant tragedy to have taken place in the Mediterranean in recent times

Live Reporting

By Yaroslav Lukov, Lauren Turner, Roland Hughes and Mario Cacciottolo

All times stated are UK

This brings to an end our live coverage of the disaster in the Mediterranean, where a huge rescue operation is continuing into the night after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized.

Italian officials say 28 people have been rescued and 24 bodies have been recovered, amid fears that hundreds of others have drowned.

Thanks for following our coverage. You can still follow all the latest developments

on the BBC News website.

Renzi's plea

More from Italian PM Matteo Renzi's news conference.

He says: "What we're asking for is not to be left alone. Not just in this emergency at sea, because in these situations the sea is always a horrible beast.

"This is a political issue, with a capital 'P'. It's an issue of human dignity, rather than of national security, to block this trade in human beings."

Maltese PM Joseph Muscat

tweets: "#Malta to take around 30 bodies recovered so far. #Italy navy ship to call in next few hrs. Survivors will move on to Italy for inquiry."

'Non-stopping issue'

Manu Moncada of Medecins Sans Frontieres
BBC

Manu Moncada, Medecins Sans Frontieres' operations co-ordinator for migrations, tells BBC World News TV channel that more work needs to be done in the area to deal with the problem.

He says: "This is a non-stopping issue.

"We are really asking for scaling up of search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea."

Mr Moncada adds that MSF has repeatedly urged Italy and the EU as a whole to urgently step up efforts.

Rescue operation

Yolande Knell

BBC News, Catania, Sicily

says that 20 ships and three helicopters are involved in the ongoing search and rescue operation.

More UK political reaction

Labour leader Ed Miliband says on Twitter: "Those dying in the Mediterranean are some of the poorest men, women and children in the world. We must act to stop these awful scenes."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says the EU should "review entirely the arrangements that are in place because we just cannot, on moral grounds, have such large numbers of people dying in such regular intervals in the Mediterranean."

Meanwhile, UKIP leader Nigel Farage says the decision by Britain and France to bomb Libya had destabilised the country, leading to the refugee crisis. He adds: "I'm the one person who has said that I do think, especially for Christians in that part of the world, they now have almost nowhere to go."

'Machinery hard to get going'

Elizabeth Collett, director of the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute think tank, tells BBC World News: "The EU is a machinery that is hard to get going."

She adds that any proposals to change its border protection programmes would take time to implement.

'Comprehensive response'

Philip Hammond
PA

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says: "Stopping this needless suffering is a huge international challenge which demands a comprehensive, co-ordinated response.

"We must target the traffickers who are responsible for so many people dying at sea and prevent their innocent victims from being tricked or forced into making these perilous journeys."

He says he will discuss the way forward with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday.

Italian coastguard update

The Italian coastguard

says on Twitter the situation, as of 18:30 local time (17:30 UK), remains that 28 people have been rescued and 24 bodies recovered.

'Europe as a whole must rise up'

Archbishop of Canterbury
Getty Images

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has said all European and Mediterranean countries have to take responsibility for dealing with the problem.

Speaking to BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet, he said: "When people are drowning in the Mediterranean, the need, the misery that has driven them out of their own countries, is so extreme, so appalling, that Europe as a whole must rise up, and seek to do what is right.

"It will be demanding, and that's why the burden must be spread across the continent, and not taken by just one country or one area."

Maltese PM Joseph Muscat

tweets: "I will meet @matteorenzi tomorrow in Rome to coordinate way forward."

Marine traffic latest

Marinetraffic screenshot
Marinetraffic

Here is the latest data on live vessel positions in the disaster area from

MarineTraffic - to give you some sense of the scale of the search and rescue operation under way.

Do 'everything it takes'

The Italian leader adds that Europe is facing a serious problem and has to do "everything it takes" to solve it, Mr Renzi adds.

'Prevent them from leaving'

Mr Renzi says "these brothers and sisters of ours who have died in the Mediterranean Sea" cannot be saved simply by checking ships, "but by preventing them from leaving and being subject to this slave trade".

'New slave trade'

Matteo Renzi
BBC

Mr Renzi says it is not yet known how many lives have been lost in the latest disaster. He also stresses that Italy wants to call an EU meeting on the issue, describing it as a "scourge" in the continent and a "new slave trade".

He sent condolences to the families of the victims and thanked those involved in the rescue effort.

Ariadne Massa, Times of Malta

tweets: MEP @RobertaMetsola: "Two years after Lampedusa #migrant tragedy the Med remains a cemetery. EU has to act." #malta #Italy #libya"

Gerry Simpson, Human Rights Watch

tweets: "As 700 more boat #migrants die-average 15 a day in 2015-#EU should launch crisis response @HRW
http://bit.ly/1OtOJyt"

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council

tweets: "Talked to PM Muscat after tragic deaths in Mediterranean. Will continue talks w/ EU leaders, Commission & EEAS on how to alleviate situation."

Scale of journey

The BBC's Richard Bilton - who has travelled south of the Italian island of Lampedusa -

explains the scale of the journey migrants from Africa and the Middle East face each year.