Italy’s coastguard said Sunday that approximately 30 migrants were missing following an attempted early-morning boat rescue off the Libyan coast.
Their boat capsized while a cargo ship was trying to save them.
“During the rescue operations by the motor vessel… the boat capsized during the transfer of the migrants: 17 people were rescued and recovered by the vessel while approximately 30 migrants were missing,” the coastguard said in a statement.
Over the weekend, migrant charity groups had signaled that a boat carrying 47 people was drifting around 100 miles (160 kilometers) off the Libyan coast.
Alarm Phone, a hotline used by migrants in distress, first said on Sunday that migrants had drowned.
The coastguard said Alarm Phone had alerted Rome’s rescue coordination center to the presence of the boat on Saturday, also notifying Maltese and Libyan authorities.
A merchant vessel that headed towards the migrant boat reported problems performing a rescue due to bad weather.
Meanwhile, Libyan authorities — responsible for search and rescue efforts in that area — reported no available naval boats and requested the assistance of Rome, which sent three nearby merchant ships towards the boat, the coastguard said.
“The operations to transfer the migrants began at first light by one of the four merchant ships that had reached the boat in difficulty,” the coastguard said.
After the 17 migrants were pulled onboard, the “Froland” vessel headed to Malta to disembark two migrants who needed urgent medical care.
Search operations were ongoing, it said.
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