The Italian Navy has recovered the bodies of 45 refugees who drowned on Friday in the latest shipwreck, while dozens of others were still missing in the third major tragedy in the Mediterranean in as many days.
The Corps of the Port Captaincies sent in rescue ships after a call for help that spoke of 350 people in the water, just a day after another shipwreck left up to 30 dead.
With search efforts continuing late into the day, the navy saved 130 people and was still searching for others, it said.
“The vessel Vega rescued 135 migrants from a sinking vessel. Forty-five bodies were recovered and search efforts are ongoing,” the navy said on Twitter.
While the EU has pushed hard to limit the influx of people fleeing war and poverty, a bout of good weather as summer arrives has begun a fresh stream of boats trying to make the perilous crossing from Libya to Italy.
The coast guard said about 1,900 people were saved on Friday from 16 vessels in distress, adding to an estimated 10,000 people already rescued near the Libyan coast in the past four days.
“It’s astounding. We are almost at the level of the Greek islands last year,” said Flavio di Giacomo, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, referring to a period when thousands arrived there from Turkey every day.
About 40,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy’s southern ports so far this year.
In one of the worst tragedies in the Mediterranean recently, a fishing trawler with about 650 people capsized off the coast of Libya on Wednesday.
The navy, which captured the tragedy in a horrifying video that shows the boat roll over and dump its passengers into the water, was able to rescue about 560 people.
At least five people died and 100 were still feared missing, according to many survivors who reported having lost a loved one or a fellow passenger.
On Thursday, the EU’s naval force said that up to 30 were believed to have died after another ship flipped over off Libya.
French merchant navy officer Antoine Laurent, who has taken part in rescue operations in the Mediterranean, said the rush to get to safety often led vessels to sink.
“On migrant boats, those in the hold act as a ballast, but they try to get out as soon as possible. Yesterday they did exactly that and upset the boat’s center of gravity and it lost all stability,” he told reporters.
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