Around 1,300 migrants have been rescued off Italy’s southern coast after the overcrowded boats they were on encountered problems in the Mediterranean Sea.
Coast guard vessels were dispatched on Friday to rescue about 500 people on a smuggler’s boat about 700 miles off the Calabria region, which forms the toe of the Italian boot. Coast guard crews also were rescuing 800 migrants from two boats in difficulty some 100 miles off Calabria.
The rescues came on the same day as the discovery of the body of the 74th victim of the deadly shipwreck off the Calabrian coast nearly two weeks ago. The victim was reported to have been a five or six-year-old girl. The migrants are believed to have departed from Turkey.
Prosecutors are investigating whether Italian authorities failed to properly respond to the ship signalled by the European border control agency, Frontex, after they chose to deploy border enforcement vessels rather than rescue boats.
Four smugglers have been arrested in the case, including one who was stopped by authorities in Austria.
Italy has strongly rejected any blame for the shipwreck and is adopting new measures to clamp down on smugglers.
The interior ministry says more than 17,500 people have arrived by sea so far this year — almost three times the number for the same period last year.