Rome: Italian coastguards on Monday rescued around 120 mostly Syrian refugees from a packed fishing boat adrift off the coast of southern Italy in gale-force conditions.
Coastguards exploited a brief lull in the weather to rescue the migrants, including some 20 children exhausted after a night on the stormy seas around 70 nautical miles southeast of Crotone.
The refugees were transferred onto two launches.
Four merchant ships, the coastguard and an Italian frigate had been keeping watch over the fishing boat since yesterday, but getting too close had been considered dangerous because of the size of the waves.
The Beaufort wind force scale in the area was 8 out of 12, which can create waves up to 7.5 metres high.
The 20-metre boat was spotted yesterday after a satellite phone call from an Egyptian national on board.
Hundreds of migrants drowned in two shipwreck tragedies in October near the Italian island of Lampedusa after the heavily overcrowded vessels capsized.