Scores of migrants missing off Libyan coast


An operation to salvage a sunken migrant boat packed with corpses was suspended on Friday due to bad weather.

ROME - The Italian coastguard said on Saturday nearly 100 people were missing after a boat transporting migrants sank off the Libyan coast.

"The bodies of eight people have been recovered. Four people have been saved, and they say 107 migrants were onboard the boat in all," the agency's press office said.

Search operations continued after nightfall in poor weather and sea conditions, it said.

A French warship, patrolling under the EU's Frontex border operation, picked up the survivors and two merchant ships were heading for the area, located about 50 kilometres north of the Libyan coast.

A Frontex plane and an Italian naval helicopter also joined the operation.

READ: 2,400 migrants rescued off Libya

On Friday, about 550 migrants were picked up from four inflatable dinghies by Italian coastguard vessels, an Italian naval ship, an NGO boat and a merchant vessel.

In recent years Italy has been on the front line of migration across the Mediterranean and has been pushing for agreements with governments in North Africa to facilitate returns.

People-smugglers have exploited the chaos in Libya since the 2011 uprising -- which overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi -- to traffic migrants to Italy 300km away.

According to the Italian interior ministry, more than 180,000 migrants landed in Italy last year, an annual record.

The UN has said more than 5,000 people died in 2016 trying to cross the Mediterranean, most of them on the Libya-Italy route.

In another incident, the bodies of six migrants were found washed up on beaches near Algeciras, the port on the southern tip of Spain near Gibraltar, the Spanish sea rescue service said on Saturday.

The six were all men, apparently from sub-Saharan Africa.

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