Rome: At least 25 migrants were found dead by the Italian coastal guard onboard a packed ship off Italy's Lampedusa island, between Libya and Sicily, media reports said Monday.
The migrants, who died by hypothermia according to initial investigations, were trying the perilous crossing towards the Italian coast amid strong winter storms which made rescue operations difficult, according to RAI state television.
More than 100 people travelling on the same ship were rescued and transported to Lampedusa by two guard ships. Some of them were reported to be in serious health conditions, Xinhua reported.
"The situation was dramatic, with high waves that measured about eight metres tall," Filippo Marini, a spokesperson of the Italian coastal guard, told Rai.
"And it was dramatic that these people put to sea with such weather conditions," he said.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR has estimated that at least 3,419 migrants lost their lives in the Mediterranean in 2014, falling victim to international organised criminal groups which arranged these journeys.