ROME/BRUSSELS -  Fresh testimony Wednesday from survivors of a deadly shipwreck in the Mediterranean raised the likely death toll for the past 48 hours to 240 people, confirming fears of rescuers who had warned dozens probably died.

The new tally is based on information gathered by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) from 15 survivors, who said some 135 people had drowned or lost when a dinghy sank on Monday. Some 95 others were feared dead after another dinghy sank on Tuesday.

Nine bodies have been recovered in total after both incidents, while a 10th person was seen to have drowned but could not be pulled from the sea by rescue teams. Monday’s survivors arrived early Wednesday in the port of Catania in Sicily, where they spoke of their ordeal. “The survivors told us that there were about 150 people on board, so there would be about 135 missing,” UNHCR spokesman Iosta Ibba told AFP.

The migrants are overwhelmingly from sub-Saharan Africa. The latest deaths will lift the total number of migrants who have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year to just over 4,500, according to a UNHCR count based on bodies recovered and survivor accounts.

The Malta-based charity MOAS, which deploys two rescue boats in the area, said Wednesday that “it is almost certain that the true death toll is much higher than the recorded figure as it is highly likely that many boats sink without ever being reported”.

The rate of departures from the North African coast continues unabated despite worsening weather in the Mediterranean, with over 2,700 people having been rescued from crowded and unseaworthy dinghies off Libya since SatuAlso - srday. Video footage released by MOAS showed survivors on board one of its rescue vessels howling with grief as the body of a victim is carried on board, wrapped in a white sheet.

The charity blamed “the changing approach of smuggling networks” which it said showed “an attempt to maximise opportunity and meet demand on the part of the smugglers”. “Whereas in past years, crossings were organised in more manageable trickles, perhaps a few a day, this year our crews have seen departures organised in large waves,” it said in a statement.

“Despite tireless efforts to save lives by both civil society and European navies... search-and-rescue efforts in the Mediterranean are more challenging than ever,” it added. Over 167,000 people have been brought to safety in Italy since the start of the year, according to the interior ministry. The figure has already passed the 153,000 number recorded in 2015 and is closing in on the 170,000 figure recorded in 2014.

EU plans five-euro security check for visitors

The EU unveiled plans Wednesday to charge travellers five euros ($5.30) for security checks to get visa-free travel to Europe’s borderless Schengen area, and confirmed the fee would apply to post-Brexit Britain.

The proposal is based on a US system and will allow EU countries to quickly cross check identity documents and other details from visa-exempt travellers with a host of data bases. Nationals from nearly 60 countries are exempt from having visas to the Schengen zone, including those from the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Brazil, Chile, Argentina as well as neighbours like Albania and Bosnia.

Under the proposed new system, citizens from those countries would still be allowed visa-free travel, but would have to pay the five-euro fee and submit to the checks. “This is a big and smart step to securing our borders and protecting our citizens,” European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told a press conference in Brussels. “Travellers from visa-exempt third countries can do it at home online. It will be cheap - five euros - easy and last for five years.

“For 95 percent of applications it will be just a matter of minutes to get a green light.” Britain has criticised the proposal amid fears that Britons will have to pay the charge, but the EU was unrepentant.

“If the UK is not a member of the European Union, sorry to say it is still to be treated as a third country on this issue” and so have to pay, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told the press conference.

The EU is trying to clamp down on security after several European cities were hit by terror attacks claimed by the Islamic State group, while the bloc has also been overwhelmed by the arrival of more than one million migrants.

Under the plan, applicants to travel to the 26-country Schengen zone -which includes 22 EU countries as well as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein - will electronically pay a fee of five euros ($5.30) for multiple entries over five years.

All those above 18 years old must pay.

The commission hopes the system can enter force as early as 2020 but its proposal must first clear the 28 member states and the European Parliament.