"Today is a day of tears," Pope Francis said Friday of a shipwreck off the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa a day earlier, in which at least 111 people died.
Italy's government declared Friday a day of national mourning in the wake of the shipwreck.
Rescue efforts continued through the day, with divers at the site of the wreck, but rough waters complicated their task.
Four children were among the dead, alongside 49 women and 58 men, coast guard spokesman Filippo Marini said. Another 155 people have been rescued: 145 men, six women and four children.
There are fears the death toll could rise further since the boat, which capsized after catching fire just half a mile off the coast, may have been carrying as many as 500 migrants from Africa. Italian authorities estimate that about 200 people are not accounted for.
The U.N. refugee agency said that all but one of the survivors were from Eritrea, in the Horn of Africa. The other was Tunisian.
Among those who escaped with their lives are 40 unaccompanied boys between ages 14 and 17, said Melissa Fleming, chief spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency. She described the migrants as exhausted and in a state of shock.
Survivors recounted a harrowing tale of 13 days spent on the boat, which picked up its passengers from the Libyan towns of Misrata and Zuwara, to the west, Fleming said.
As they approached the coast of Lampedusa, the engine stopped. The migrants hoped to be spotted, but, they told the U.N. agency, fishing boats passed by without helping, so they set fire to clothes and blankets in a bid to attract attention. A tourist boat finally sounded the alert, and the coast guard came to their rescue, Fleming said.
The survivors have been taken to a reception center that's already overcrowded with about 1,000 other recent arrivals by boat, she said.
Lampedusa, south of Sicily and the closest Italian island to Africa, has become a destination for tens of thousands of refugees seeking to enter European Union countries. And such wrecks of migrant boats, although on a smaller scale, have become all too common.
Pope Francis, who gave his unscripted remarks while meeting with the poor on a visit to Assisi, the birthplace of his namesake Saint Francis, also railed Thursday against what occurred in Lampedusa.
Labeling the tragedy a "disgrace," he called for concerted action to ensure it is not repeated in future.
He visited Lampedusa in July to pray for refugees and migrants lost at sea and criticized then what he called "global indifference" to the island's refugee crisis.
Despite the dangers of taking to the sea in boats that are often barely seaworthy, thousands of migrants and asylum seekers depart North Africa's shores every year in search of a better life.
Another 13 men drowned off Italy's southern coast Monday when they attempted to swim ashore, the U.N. refugee agency said Thursday.
And last week, the Italian coast guard rescued a ship bound for Lampedusa from Tunisia that had 398 Syrian refugees on board.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said the tragedy "should serve as a wake-up call" to the world.
"There is something fundamentally wrong in a world where people in need of protection have to resort to these perilous journeys," he said.
He called for more effective international cooperation to crack down on people smugglers, saying the latest tragedy shows how vital it is for refugees "to have legal channels to access territories where they can find protection."
Maurizio Albahari, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, said it was time for Europe to enact new policies rather than simply shed tears for those who died -- or blame the traffickers.
"To solve the problem, it is vital to understand what it is that routinely brings thousands of migrants to trust smugglers, face exorbitant costs and risk their lives on unseaworthy vessels," he said. "It's quite simple. It is legally impossible for them to travel safely on planes and ferries."
This can be because their oppressive home countries won't grant them exit visas or because they're poor and can't offer the financial guarantees needed for a European visa to be granted, he said.
"But they risk the many dangers to escape despair," he said. "They fall through the immense cracks of a system that needs them for a job or might grant them asylum, but only if they first make it through miles of peril and years of exploitation."