At least 60 people are missing and believed drowned after the dinghy they were on sank off Libya, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Friday.
The IOM spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo wrote on Twitter that 80 people, who had disembarked in the southeastern Italian port of Brindisi, told IOM staff that they were rescued after their dinghy capsized.
80 survivors brought to Brindisi reported to IOM staff that their dinghy with abt 140 people on board capsized: abt 60 migrants went missing
— Flavio Di Giacomo (@fladig) June 30, 2017
The inflatable had been carrying 140-150 people including women when it began taking on water five hours after setting off from North Africa on Monday.
“They don’t know how long it was before help arrived. They clung to bits of the dinghy until it fell dark, then a boat arrived and they were rescued,” Di Giacomo told AFP.
The survivors were later transferred to the British military ship HMS Echo, which is currently operating in the Mediterranean as part of the European Union‘s anti-trafficking Operation Sophia.
They were among 550 people the HMS Echo disembarked in Brindisi on Friday, following an intense week of rescues at sea.
With smugglers taking advantage of a spell of good weather and calm seas, more than 10,000 people were rescued from rickety boats off Libya since Sunday alone.
Nearly 77,000 migrants have landed in Italy since January, up 15 percent on the same period in 2016.
The IOM estimated that 2,169 people have died or gone missing since the start of the year while trying to reach Europe in Mediterranean Sea crossings.