The bodies of 21 migrant women and a man were recovered from a dinghy in the Mediterranean on Wednesday (20 July). Authorities said that more than 200 people including 50 children were rescued after they were spotted by Italian patrolling boats, drifting in the Mediterranean, humanitarian aid group Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) said.
Around 209 survivors were pulled to safety from two rubber dinghies sailing close to each other, by an MSF boat, patrolling Central Mediterranean. However, 22 migrants were found dead at the bottom of one of the dinghies, off the coast of Libya.
Jens Pagotto, MSF head of Mission for Search and Rescue Operations, told Reuters on phone, "It is still not entirely clear what happened, but they died a horrible death. It is tragic. It seems that water and fuel mixed together and the fumes from this might have been enough for them to lose consciousness."
Most of the survivors were from West African countries such as Guinea and Nigeria, and will be taken to Sicily. Since Tuesday (19 July) around 3,100 migrants have been rescued from the Mediterranean in different operations.
Pagotto said, the Italian coast guard had responded to a distress call at around 10am local time (8am BST) on Wednesday and informed MSF ship Aquarius, which reached the scene after three hours. The rescue was aided by an Italian naval vessel.
He added, "The survivors had been on the boat with the bodies of these women for hours on end. Many are too traumatized from what they have endured to be able to talk about what had happened."
The number of migrants leaving Libya on overcrowded boats to make their way to Europe has gone up this week, Italian officials said.
According to statistics by International Organisation for Migration, as of 18 July, some 79,861 migrants reached Italy by sea this year when compared to 83,119 migrants who arrived last year around the same time.