Rome: Italy's coastguard said today that 15 people had been rescued from a sinking rubber dinghy off Libya, amid fears dozens more may have drowned.
The coastguard would only confirm that a merchant ship had gone to the aid of the stricken dinghy yesterday and that 15 people had been rescued, before being transferred to the Diciotti, a coastguard vessel.
"They are now being taken to Catania (in Sicily) and for the moment we cannot confirm any other news or numbers," a coastguard spokesman said.
It would be extremely unusual, if not unheard of, for traffickers to set off from Libya with as few as 15 people on the kind of vessel which is typically crammed with between 100 and 150 migrants.
Fears of a new major tragedy mounted as harrowing testimony emerged from another of the five rescues coordinated by the coastguard yesterday.