Five dead in new migrant disaster, Italians save over 800

ANSA reports Italian navy recovering five dead after rescue 61

The Italian authorities recovered five dead bodies bodies after rescuing 61 people from a sinking migrant boat in waters south of Sicily, ANSA sources said Monday.

A search has started for missing people as the boat is thought to have been carrying around 80 people. The news of the the case disaster comes a day after another migrant-boat disaster in waters between Libya and Malta in which 29 people, including a small child, died.

More than 800 migrants were rescued overnight while attempting to cross the Mediterranean, the Italian navy said.

The latest rescue comes amid a surge in the number of migrants attempting to reach Europe from Africa, as traffickers take advantage of calm summer seas to make the dangerous crossing.

The navy said four of its boats were involved in the operation, which lasted through Sunday night and continued into Monday, together with a merchant ship that happened to be in the area.

It said 824 migrants were rescued from an assortment of dinghies, rafts and other boats - among them at least 91 women and 14 children.

In the biggest operation, a navy frigate rescued 294 migrants, including 28 women and nine children, from three dinghies.

The same frigate was involved in the rescue of another boat that was "on the verge of sinking", the navy said in a statement, adding that five bodies were recovered.

Two of those rescued were transported by helicopter to a hospital in Catania, Sicily.

The navy said a total of 1,771 migrants have been rescued in Italian territorial waters in recent days, adding that the search for more people continued on Monday.

On Saturday, Maltese authorities made the grim discovery of 30 bodies in the hold of a vessel that was carrying migrants across the Mediterranean.

Maltese officials said the migrants - almost all Syrian - may have died in a stampede as the boat was being rescued, while Italian officials said they may have been overcome with toxic fumes from the engine.

There has been a sharp rise in migrant landings in recent weeks because of the calm summer weather and growing lawlessness in Libya, with hundreds of migrants now being intercepted by Italian authorities every day.

Around 80,000 migrants are now believed to have landed in Italy so far this year - higher than the previous record of about 60,000 set in 2011 at the height of the turmoil triggered by the Arab Spring uprisings.

Most of the migrants making the risky and often deadly journeys come from Eritrea, Somalia and Syria but there are also many arriving from across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.