Nearly 600 migrants packed into overcrowded fishing boats in bad weather were rescued overnight off the coast of Calabria, Italy’s coastguard said Tuesday, adding that one body had been found.
The 573 migrants were found aboard “two overloaded fishing boats and left at the mercy of waves with unfavorable weather conditions that were expected to worsen significantly,” it said in a statement.
A large ship and three patrol boats aided in the rescue, which took place about 110 kilometers (70 miles) off Cape Spartivento at the southern tip of Calabria, it said.
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Among those rescued was a body of a migrant who “had already been dead for a few days,” according to witnesses, the coastguard said.
A patrol boat rushed another migrant in need of immediate medical care to the Calabrian port of Roccella Ionica.
The group included 59 minors, most of whom were unaccompanied by family members.
The ship was on its way to the Sicilian port of Augusta where the migrants will be disembarked, the coastguard said.
Winter weather has not been a deterrent for migrants crossing the Mediterranean this year despite freezing temperatures and rough seas.
So far this year, some 10,570 migrants have reached Europe by sea, and more than 1,400 others have attempted crossings by land or air, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Some 229 have died or gone missing in the attempt to reach the continent.
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