​A migrant's story of death -- and survival -- at sea

CATANIA, Italy -- Dozens of migrants swam for their lives Monday morning after their overcrowded wooden boat ran aground off the Greek coast. Clinging to the wreckage, most of them made it to the safety of Europe.

But this year alone, the journeys of more than a thousand desperate people from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa ended in tragedy.

Inside the dangerous migrant journey to Italy
The Italian Coast Guard is still scouring the Mediterranean Sea for survivors of Sunday's disaster off the Coast of Libya, but many fear they'll only find more bodies.

One man who made it to shore told Italian officials that human smugglers had crammed their 70-foot vessel with more than 900 people before it capsized. Yet many others are ready to take the same risk.

We found Geele Adan sleeping on a street in this small Italian city. He told us he and his friends arrived here a week ago after making the crossing from North Africa in a 15-foot boat, packed with more than 200 people.

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Geele Adan, a Somalian who left Africa in a crowded ship, is interview by CBS News' Holly Williams in Italy CBS News

"It took three days, and 18 people died of asphyxiation in the hold," Adan said. "I prayed to God to save us."

He said he paid $7,000 to the smugglers to get him out of Somalia after Islamic extremists killed several of his family members.

"I was prepared for death," Adan said. "And I was willing to take the gamble."

Last year Europe scaled back its search-and-rescue operations to try to discourage migrants and human smugglers by sending a message that they might not be saved if they ran into trouble -- but that's failed to stem the tide of migrants.