About 10,000 migrants were rescued off the coast of Libya over the previous four days but at least 54 others died, Libyan and Italian officials said Saturday. On Saturday, the Tunisian army also rescued 126 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa hoping to reach Italian shores, officials said. They were aboard a flimsy inflatable boat off the coastal town of Ben Gardane, near the Libyan border.
On Friday, more than 1,200 migrants were rescued by Libyan ships and taken to Tripoli or Zawiya, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) west, while the Italian coastguard and commercial boats rescued 2,200 others and took them to Italy. At least 10 bodies were also found by the Italian coastguard, officials said. Migrants were still disembarking in southern Italy on Saturday.
Another 6,400 were picked up between Tuesday and Thursday, but at least 44 people died, including 35 who drowned on Wednesday when a powerful wave struck their vessel, pitching them into the sea as a rescue ship was distributing life jackets. Meanwhile, Spain’s maritime rescue service has saved 157 migrants from five small boats attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
The service completed five different rescue missions in waters east of the Strait of Gibraltar to reach the small craft from late Friday through until Saturday evening. The service said that it reached the first boat carrying 27 men and six women late on Friday after it was sighted by a Spanish military plane. Another rescue boat intervened early Saturday to pull five men from a second boat.
A third craft in danger of sinking with 35 men aboard was then spotted by a Spanish navy outpost on the Alboran Island between Spain and Morocco. The Spanish military helped the boat dock on the island, where the migrants were picked up by the rescue service.
A fourth boat with 30 men and two women was located after the service received an alert from Moroccan authorities. The fifth boat bearing 42 men and 10 women was spotted by a Spanish navy vessel, which guided the rescue service to its whereabouts. (Agencies)