At least two people have died and another 30 are missing after three refugee boats were shipwrecked off the Italian coast.
The Coast Guard said the tragedy struck off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on Sunday, adding that 57 people had been rescued.
In a separate operation, 34 migrants were flown by helicopter from a cliff in Lampedusa where they had been stranded since late Friday after another shipwreck, the Italian mountain rescue service said.
Among them were a child and two pregnant women, it said.
Italy is experiencing a surge in sea migration: nearly 92,000 arrivals have been recorded so far this year, compared with around 43,000 over the same period in 2022, according to the Interior Ministry on Friday.
The Coast Guard said it carried out a “complex” rescue south of Lampedusa on Saturday, picking up passengers from two sunken refugee boats that are believed to have set out from Tunisia’s Sfax, a flashpoint of the migrant crisis there.
In a statement, the Coast Guard described the two dead migrants as a woman and a child.
The Italian news agency Ansa previously identified them as a mother and one-year-old child from Ivory Coast.
Ansa quoted survivors as saying one ship was carrying 48 people and the second 42. Survivors and bodies were picked up 23 nautical miles (46 km) southwest of Lampedusa, sources said.
The shipwrecks occurred in very rough seas.
The provincial police chief, Emanuele Ricifari, was quoted as saying by a local news website Agrigento Oggi Whoever let the migrants sail in such bad weather was “a mad criminal with no qualms”.
More than 2,000 people have arrived on Lampedusa in recent days after being rescued at sea by Italian patrol boats and NGO groups in strong winds around the island.
On Sunday, the Spanish NGO group Open Arms said it had finally been allowed to land 195 rescued migrants in the southern Italian port of Brindisi after more than two days at rough seas.
Italy’s right-wing government has a policy of allocating far-flung ports to charity ships rather than letting migrants land in Lampedusa or Sicily, with the aim of dispersing the arrivals across the country.
NGOs say this increases their navigation costs, prolongs the misery of survivors and reduces the time charity ships can patrol areas of the Mediterranean where shipwrecks are more common.