Refugee crisis: More than 6,000 saved and nine dead in single day of Mediterranean rescue missions

Rescue operation coordinated by Italy was among the largest seen in a single day

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The Independent Online

At least 6,000 refugees have been rescued in 24 hours after trying to reach Europe from Libya in about 40 boats.

The Italian coastguard said a total of 6,055 migrants had been rescued from the water, and nine bodies were recovered.

The rescue operation, which was coordinated by Italian authorities, was one of the largest seen in a single day.

It is thought Libyan traffickers took advantage of the first day of calm seas after several days of high waves to launch boats overloaded with people paying to reach Europe.

Most of the vessels were inflatable dinghies, along with two converted fishing boats.

One coast guard ship rescued as many as 725 migrants from a single inflatable boat. 

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the dead included a 23-year-old pregnant woman.

According to recuers around 200 children were saved from just one boat. Most were unaccompanied by adults, and nine of them were under five years old.

The vast rescue operation, just 30 miles off the Libyan coast, saw Italian coast guard boats along with navy ships conducting rescues, as well as vessels from the EU’s Frontex patrols work to bring the refugees to safety.

Several humanitarian organisations also participated.

Two people, including a pregnant woman, required emergency medical care and were taken by helicopter to a hospital on the Sicilian Island of Lampedusa.

Bel Trew, a reporter for The Times, was with one of the rescue crews and said many of the refugees were injured and several in a critical condition were air evacuated.

The mass rescue comes three years to the day after 366 people drowned off the coast of Lampedusa. The sinking of the vessel in 2013 alerted the international community to the migrant Mediterranean crisis. 

According to the International Organisation for Migration, around 132,000 migrants have arrived in Italy since the beginning of the year, and 3,054 have died in their attempts.