About 20 corpses have been spotted at sea following the sinking of a migrant boat off the coast of Libya, an official from a European Union naval mission in the Mediterranean said Thursday.
A Spanish navy vessel of the Eunavfor Med Sophia operation picked up 77 people and was trying to recover "about 20 bodies," a press officer for the mission, Rino Gentile, told dpa.
Earlier, Gentile said about 100 migrants were on a wooden boat which went down near the Libyan coast.
Marco Di Milla, a spokesman for the Italian coastguard, confirmed news of the shipwreck, locating it about 55 kilometres off Libyan shores, said coastguard units also rushed to the scene, but did not confirm any deaths.
In a statement, the coast guard said it had coordinated 22 rescue operations on Thursday, bringing more than 4,000 people to safety, including 96 from the accident spotted by Eunavfor. A 5-year-old boy suffering from hypothermia was among them.
Italy is facing a surge in sea migrant arrivals.
Since Monday, Italian authorities have reported the rescue of more than 10,000 people from the Mediterranean, whereas there were 1,641 arrivals in the whole of last week, according to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The IOM also estimates that 1,370 migrants have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean since the beginning of 2016.