Rome: The Italian navy has recovered six bodies following a shipwreck off the Libyan coast, the third tragedy to hit immigrants attempting the perilous journey across the Mediterranean this weekend.
"Last night, north of the Libyan coast, with weather conditions deteriorating, a fishing boat carrying a large number of migrants capsized," the navy said in a statement today. Rescue workers managed to pull 364 migrants from the sea.
A helicopter dispatched from Italy`s island of Lampedusa - closer to Africa than the Italian mainland - threw life vests into the sea, while two patrol boats, a life-guard boat and a freighter arrived on the scene to rescue the surviving migrants.
The search for other survivors continues, the navy said.
The shipwreck followed the discovery yesterday of 18 bodies aboard a dinghy carrying 99 people, which began to sink just as a rescue helicopter flew over it.
It followed the deaths on Friday of at least 170 Africans who drowned when their wooden boat went down off the Libyan coast.
Some 4,000 immigrants were rescued between Friday and today in the stretch of sea between Sicily and the Libyan and Tunisian coasts by Italy`s large-scale naval deployment dubbed "Mare Nostrum", launched after over 400 people died in two shipwrecks last October.
Many of the migrants making the risky and often deadly journeys are refugees from Eritrea, Somalia and Syria, but there are also many arriving from across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
More than 100,000 migrants have landed in Italy so far this year, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR - far higher than the previous record of some 60,000 who arrived in 2011 at the height of the turmoil triggered by the Arab Spring revolutions.