ROME – At least 1,800 migrants were rescued off the Libyan coast on Tuesday, the Italian coastguard announced, adding that similar operations were under way around 15 other overloaded vessels.
The latest efforts came a day after more than 6,000 migrants were saved while making a perilous Mediterranean crossing. Italian authorities said nine corpses had been found, while the Libyan coastguard said the bodies of 11 women and two children had been retrieved.
The Italian coastguard, which is co-ordinating rescue efforts in international waters north of Libya, said there were no dead bodies found so far on Tuesday.
The 1,800 migrants were rescued from 16 crammed boats. A helicopter had to be used to evacuate four people, including a pregnant woman suffering from medical complications, the coastguard said.
On Tuesday morning an AFP photographer travelling on the Astral, a ship chartered by Spanish organisation ProActiva Open Arms, said he saw several hundred migrants awaiting rescue in packed vessels.
He said one fishing trawler appeared to be carrying 1,000 people crammed into its three levels.
"There are people jumping into the water," he said, adding that a Spanish military aircraft had dropped lifeboats while the migrants waited for rescue ships to arrive.
ProActiva Open Arms is a Barcelona-based body whose main mission is to rescue migrants from sea.
The latest people to be rescued will add to a total of some 132,000 migrants who have landed at Italy's southern ports so far this year, fleeing conflict, poverty or persecution and hoping to start new lives in Europe.