Italian officials have reported that at least 10 migrants have died, and a further 4,800 have been rescued, in an ongoing rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea.
About 4,800 migrants were plucked from boats off the coast of Libya over the weekend and 10 bodies were recovered, Italy’s coast guard and navy said, in what looked to be the biggest rescue operation of its kind so far this year.
Two weeks after nearly 900 boat people drowned in the worst Mediterranean shipwreck in living memory, the flow of people desperate to reach a better life in Europe has accelerated as people smugglers take advantage of calmer seas.
Seven bodies were found on two large rubber boats packed with migrants and rescuers plucked from the sea the corpses of three others who had jumped into the water when they saw a merchant ship approaching, the coast guard said.
Separately, authorities in Egypt said that three people died when a migrant boat attempting to reach Greece sank off its coast. Thirty-one people were rescued.
Some 10 Italian vessels, four private boats and a French ship acting on behalf of the European border control agency took part in the rescue off Libya, coordinated by Italy, the country that receives the biggest number of Mediterranean migrants.
The private Migrant Offshore Aid Station, which runs one rescue ship in partnership with Doctors Without Borders, said on Twitter it had saved 369 migrants, mainly from Eritrea, from a single overcrowded wooden boat.