Ten women have died in a new migrant boat accident off the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean Sea, Italian authorities said, as they began the gruesome task of removing hundreds of corpses from another salvaged wreck.
The women were found dead in the bottom of a partially submerged dinghy, said Italian coastguard spokesman Captain Cosimo Nicastro.
Crew aboard the Italian coastguard patrol boat, the Diciotti, managed to rescue 107 of the people trapped on the sinking dinghy.
In a separate rescue operation, the same crew saved another 116 people aboard another three rubber boats in distress in the same area between Sicily and Libya.
Refugees pay thousands of dollars to people smugglers to get on to the boats, which are often overcrowded, low on supplies, and not fit to travel long distances.
Last year more than a million people made their way to Europe by sea from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.
The United Nations refugee agency estimates that from April 19, 2015 to today, about 4,937 people have died while making the journey across the sea to Europe.
More than 64,000 people have landed at Italian ports since the start of the year, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa, according to the UN.
READ MORE: Italy recovers refugee ship that sank off Libya
On Thursday, Italian authorities prepared to begin removing the remains of hundreds of bodies from a fishing boat which sank off the coast of Libya last year, in one of the worst maritime accidents in the Mediterranean since World War II.
The boat was raised from the seabed on Monday and towed to the Sicilian port of Augusta.
Nearly 120 bodies have already been recovered from the seabed but hundreds of corpses are believed to be trapped below deck, where survivors said migrants including many women and children were locked.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who authorised the salvage, said on Thursday that the horror of people being driven to their deaths after being crammed on to a rickety ship had helped to change Europe's approach to the refugee crisis.
"This ship contains stories, faces, people, not only a number of corpses," he said in a post on his Facebook page.
"I authorised the navy to salvage the wreck to give burials to these brothers and sisters of ours who would otherwise have stayed for ever at the bottom of the sea."