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 has said, while European charities reported saving more than 500 refugees in other operations.Some of the survivors had to be plucked from the sea in the Italian operation on Saturday 118 miles (190km) 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 casualties were not immediately known.
The Coast Guard said on Sunday 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 refugees 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 the rescued included a pregnant woman and a man who had suffered severe burns.
“We will be appealing directly to the closest port of safety, for us that would be Malta and Italy, in order that we can disembark the people as soon as possible,” Wallace Bowman said.
“We’re kind of like a floating ambulance – we can provide an emergency response, we can stabilise people for a short period of time, but this is only a very short-term solution.”