This is the dramatic moment more than 30 migrants were forced to abandon their rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea after it suddenly caught fire.

Footage taken from a Portuguese air force plane shows the small vessel become engulfed in flames as it sailed in waters off the coast of Spain on Sunday (28 May).

The 34 migrants on board, most of whom appear to be wearing life jackets, were forced to quickly abandon ship as the fire rapidly spread from the engine at the rear of the dinghy to the rest of the boat.

They can be seen desperately trying to stay afloat amid the flaming wreckage, with some clinging to pieces of the speedboat.

The incident saw a helicopter and several rescue vessels dispatched to the area southwest of Alboran Island between Morocco and Spain.

A nearby fisherman also helped in the rescue effort.

Tomas Garcia, a manager at the coastguard centre in Spain's southeastern Almeria province who has 24 years experience coordinating rescues, later said in a statement that the rescue "was one of the most complex" his centre had seen.

The migrants, whose nationalities were not disclosed, were taken to the port of Motril in southern Spain unharmed, AFP reported.

migrant crisis
Some 34 migrants were forced to abandon ship and swim amid burning wreckage after their dinghy caught fire on Sunday, 28 May Forca Aerea

The passage from north Africa to Europe continues to be the deadliest route migrants take anywhere on earth, according to the UN's International Organization for Migration (IOM).

As of 29 May, some 1,569 people have died trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea this year. More than 43,000 migrants and refugees fleeing war-torn countries like Libya entered Europe by sea over the same period, with the vast majority arriving in Italy.

Last year, there were just over 5,000 recorded migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea.