Rome: In dramatic sea rescues north of Libya, a flotilla of ships saved more than 1,000 migrants and refugees, while 10 migrants perished in the southern Mediterranean, Italian officials said today.
Rescue vessels, including from Italy's coast guard and navy, and three cargo ships saved 941 people in seven separate operations that began yesterday, Italy's coast guard said. Today, the coast guard and two cargo ships rescued 94 migrants whose motorized dinghy was in distress 40 miles (65 kms) north of Libya, the coast guard said.
Survivors were ferried to southern Italian ports. The migrants rescued Tuesday had been aboard five motorized dinghies and two larger vessels. One of the larger boats capsized, and 10 bodies were spotted or plucked from the sea. For months now, hundreds, sometimes thousands, of migrants fleeing conflicts or poverty have been reaching Italy practically weekly on smugglers' boats setting sail from Libya.
This year's pace has seen a sharp uptick from 2014's staggering count of 170,000 migrants and asylum-seekers rescued at sea by Italy's coast guard, navy and other vessels including cargo ships. The Interior Ministry says 7,882 migrants arrived on Italian coasts in the first two months of this year, compared to 5,506 in that period in 2014.
The coast guard said the migrants saved in the latest rescues claimed to be Syrians, Palestinians, Libyans, Tunisians and people from sub-Saharan Africa. More than 30 children were among those rescued. One of the 50 pregnant women aboard was urgently evacuated for medical treatment.