40 Migrants Suffocate in Ship Bound for Italy But navy rescues more than 300 By Newser Editors and Wire Services Posted Aug 15, 2015 8:39 AM CDT 37 comments Comments In this photo taken Aug. 11, a migrant is lifted onto a ship from the Italian navy after being found clinging to a barrel in the sea. (Italian Navy via AP Photo) (Newser) – At least 40 migrants died today in the hold of an overcrowded smuggling boat in the Mediterranean Sea north of Libya, but some 320 others on the same boat were saved by the Italian navy. The survivors included 45 women and three children. Migrants by the tens of thousands are braving the perilous journey across the Mediterranean this year, hoping to reach Europe and be granted asylum. They are fleeing war, persecution, and poverty in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Prior to today's disaster, at least 2,100 migrants had died at sea this year trying to make the crossing from the shores of Libya, where human traffickers are based, to Italy. "The dead were found in the hold," said Cmdr. Massimo Tosi, speaking from the navy ship Cigala Fulgosi. Asked by RaiNews24 how the migrants died, Tosi said "it appears to be from inhaling exhaust fumes." When rescuers stepped aboard, the bodies of migrants were "lying in water, fuel, human excrement" in the hold, he said, adding that among the survivors, "women were crying for their husbands (and) their children who died in the crossing."