"The Italian's boat started circling around us. They circled our boat twice, then just went away," he said. "That's when people started to panic."
The boat's captain told the passengers to set fire to clothes and blankets to attract attention.
"He gathered some clothes and bed sheets and lit them. But his container of benzene exploded," Mohammad said.
The fire then spread, and when many of the migrants crowded to one side, the boat capsized, said Italian lawmaker Mario Marazziti, citing survivors' accounts.
"People were screaming as the boat capsized," Mohammed said.
The lucky few
In response to criticism, the coast guard Saturday defended its response time and said its crews were on site 20 minutes after receiving the SOS call.
"The moment we got the emergency call from the fishermen at 7 a.m., we immediately intervened and started coordinating the rescue operations," said coast guard spokesman Filippo Marini.
Abrahalli Amare, 23, was one of the lucky few who were eventually rescued.
"We left our country because of hardship, so that we could live in peace and help our families," Amare said."But we have found this bitter sadness. It was so unexpected, so disturbing. And now we can't think of anything else."