The ships involved in the shipwrecks left from Libya and Morocco. One was spotted sinking in rough waters on Friday by an Italian military plane on patrol. Due to lack of fuel, the Italian plane had to leave after dropping two safety rafts into the water, Fabio Agostini, Rear Admiral told TV channel RaiNews24.
A naval helicopter was dispatched and rescued three people who were suffering from severe hypothermia and taken to hospital on the island of Lampedusa. “During this operation, at least three bodies were seen in the water who appeared to be dead,” Agostini said.
The three survivors said they had left Gasr Garabulli in Libya on Thursday night as part of a group of 120 people, mainly from West Africa, according to Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
“After ten to 11 hours at sea… (the boat) started sinking and people started drowning,” Di Giacomo said, adding the passengers included ten women and two children, one of whom was just two months old.
In another incident, 53 migrants who left Morocco on a dinghy were missing after what one survivor said was a collision in the Alboran Sea, in the western Mediterranean, according to Spanish non-governmental organization Caminando Fronteras.
The United Nations’ Refugee Agency said in a statement it was deeply saddened by reports of an estimated 170 people dead or missing.
Separately, the charity Sea-Watch said, it had rescued 47 people at sea, including eight unaccompanied minors, from a rubber boat in distress north of the Libyan city of Zuwara.
Matteo Salvini, Italy’s interior minister, who has closed off Italian ports to humanitarian boats since mid-2018, said the ports would remain closed to deter human traffickers.
“The latest shipwreck is proof that if you reopen the ports, more people will die,” Salvini said in a video on Facebook on Saturday.
He said 100 people had reached Italy so far this year compared with 2,000 in the same period of 2018.
In 2018, some 2,297 migrants died or went missing in the Mediterranean while 116,959 people reached Europe by sea.