Hundreds of people were rescued in three separate missions in the Mediterranean off the coast of Libya on Tuesday, with 400 migrants reportedly saved in just one operation made to an overcrowded wooden boat.
The Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) aided the wooden boat from its Topaz Responder rescue ship, with the organization saying it also recovered four dead bodies who has suffocated below deck.
Another person was found in critical condition and is receiving treatment from humanitarian organization Emergency, according to MOAS.
A spokesman for the Italian coast guard, whom rescuers have to contact when they pick up people at sea, said around 500 people in total had been saved in the three rescue missions carried out on Tuesday, all around 20 miles from the coast of Libya.
The coast guard spokesman, who could not confirm the death toll, said the Bourbon Argos, run by humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders, had gone to the rescue of a rubber boat.
A third mission, involving a small boat carrying about 20 people, was still in progress, the spokesman said.
Italy's Navy said in a separate statement that one of its helicopters had air-lifted one migrant in respiratory arrest toward the island of Lampedusa, and that two of its ships had been involved in rescues. It was not clear whether they were the same incidents reported by the coast guard.
Italy has been on the front line of Europe's worst migration crisis since World War Two, which is now in its third year.
More than 67,000 seaborne migrants had arrived in Italy by early July, according to the International Organization for Migration, and 2,499 had died attempting the crossing.
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