The overloaded boats carrying the migrants ran into trouble in the Mediterranean on Saturday, and almost 1,000 of them were taken to safety at two Italian ports, according to press sources.
The 74th victim of the fatal shipwreck about two weeks ago, a female youngster between the ages of five and six, was found dead on the same day as the rescue operations, according to news agency AGI.
The right-wing administration headed by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has come under fire for failing to act quickly to salvage the boat in the catastrophe that happened on February 26 close off the coast of Calabria.
The coastguard, which did not respond to requests for more information, signalled on Friday a large rescue operation under way after three boats were spotted drifting off Italy’s coasts. One was south of the Calabrian city of Crotone and two further south off Roccella Ionica.
Coastguard videos published late Friday showed a large fishing boat pitching back and forth in rough seas with dozens of people visible on the deck and a tugboat seen towing the boat.
Those 487 migrants onboard were safely brought to the port of Crotone early Saturday morning, according to various new reports.
Separately, a coastguard ship carrying 584 migrants docked Saturday morning at Reggio Calabria, after those onboard were rescued in various interventions, news agency ANSA reported.
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It was not immediately clear the status of the third boat identified by the coastguard Friday.
The recent shipwreck has put the government on the defensive. On Thursday, Meloni held a cabinet meeting at Cutro, near the disaster site, and announced a new decree that included stiffer prison sentences for human traffickers, but no new measures to help save lives.
Her far-right Brothers of Italy party, which won elections last year, had promised to curb arrivals, but Italy has recently seen a sharp rise in the number of migrants attempting to reach its shores via the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.
The interior ministry says more than 17,500 people have arrived by sea so far this year — almost three times the number for the same period last year.
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