Rescuers plucked 1,164 people from rubber and wooden boats in the Mediterranean under heavy thunderstorms on Sunday and recovered six dead bodies during the operations, relief services said.
Italian coastguard and naval ships, a vessel from the European Union’s anti-smuggling mission and private aid groups rescued the people from seven boats in the central Mediterranean.
The coastguard gave no details about the six dead it found.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF), one of the humanitarian groups that took part in Sunday’s rescues, wrote about the stormy weather on Twitter: “It bucketed down during today’s rescues. Winter on the Mediterranean is next-level grim.”
Most of the 4,715 deaths in the Mediterranean counted by the International Organization for Migration so far this year were reported en route to Italy from Libya, where traffickers have taken advantage of lawlessness to set up profitable businesses.
One migrant told the crew of the Aquarius, a rescue ship run by the humanitarian group SOS Mediterranee, that he wanted to go to Tripoli airport to take a flight home to Bangladesh but trying to reach the Libyan capital “was much more dangerous than taking this wooden boat and trying to cross to Europe”.
But amid the distress, a Nigerian woman rescued on Saturday evening gave birth on Sunday to a baby boy on the ship, which was “good news that cheered up the whole crew,” the aid group said on its website.