(Bloomberg) — A fishing boat packed with an estimated 700 people seeking refuge in Europe capsized north of the Libyan coast, in what may become the most deadly such tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea.

Italy and Malta immediately deployed navy and coast guard ships in an effort to rescue survivors. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told a news conference on Sunday in Rome that 24 bodies had been recovered and 28 people had been rescued, adding that he hopes an urgent European Union summit on migration can be held by Friday.

"If confirmed, this would be the largest tragedy ever in the Mediterranean involving migrants," Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in a telephone interview. "Nobody should be allowed to die this way."

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