Italian vessels have recovered five bodies and rescued 674 people packed on a fishing boat adrift in the Mediterranean off the Libyan coast, the Italian Coast Guard said on Sunday, while European charities reported saving at least 500 more.
Some of the survivors had to be plucked from the sea in the Italian operation on Saturday that was carried out 190 kilometres off the coast of Calabria by a navy mercantile ship, three Coast Guard patrol boats and a financial police boat. All of those rescued were brought to ports in Calabria and Sicily.
The causes of death for the five dead were not immediately known.
The Coast Guard said it was just one in a series of rescues in recent days in the Italian search-and-rescue area of the central Mediterranean, as desperate people fleeing poverty or oppression seek a better life in Europe. In one case, a helicopter was called to evacuate a woman in need of medical treatment from a migrant boat in a precarious condition, the Coast Guard said.
In separate operations, the German charity Sea-Watch said it rescued 444 migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean on overcrowded, rickety smugglers’ boats. The Sea-Watch 3 vessel carried out the five operations over 24 hours, and said those who were rescued included a pregnant woman and a man who had suffered severe burns.
The charity is asking for permission to bring the rescued people to a safe port, as the rescue ship is unable to accommodate so many people.
In addition, the European charity SOS Méditerrannée said its rescue ship Ocean Viking saved 87 people, including 57 unaccompanied minors, from an overcrowded rubber boat off the Libyan coast. None had life-jackets, the charity said.
Migrant arrivals in Italy are up by nearly one-quarter from 2021, with 34,013 recorded through Friday.
While still notably fewer than the 2015 peak year, the crossings remain deadly, with 1,234 people recorded dead or missing at sea by the United Nations refugee agency this year, 823 of those in the perilous central Mediterranean.
At least 17 dead in capsizing in Bahamas
Elsewhere, at least 17 people are dead after a vessel carrying Haitian migrants capsized off the coast of the Bahamas, authorities said on Sunday, amid a continuing wave of sea migration toward the United States.
Rescue teams recovered the bodies of 17 people, including an infant, and 25 people were rescued, Bahamian Prime Minister Philip Davis told a news conference. Davis said authorities believe they were on a speedboat heading for Miami.
The Bahamas police said the boat capsized some 11 kilometres off the island of New Providence. Up to 60 people may have been on the vessel, officials said.
Bahamian authorities said that two people were taken into custody, both from the Bahamas, over the suspected human smuggling operation. Immigration Minister Keith Bell said survivors indicated that they paid between $3,000 and $8,000 US for the voyage.
The Bahamas is a frequent transit route for Haitian migrants seeking to reach the U.S. Dangerous sea voyages in rickety vessels have become increasingly common over the last year as Haitians flee poverty and rising gang violence.