Dramatic footage shows people being rescued from choppy seas in the Mediterranean – as reports emerge that a mother and her one-year-old child have lost their lives after two boats capsized.
Video released on Sunday shows people clinging to life rings as they drift in the heaving waves while others are hoisted aboard a coastguard vessel.
Around 30 people remained missing on Sunday after the two shipwrecks overnight, the Italian coastguard said, and two people have died.
Around 57 people were rescued off the island of Lampedusa, located in the Mediterranean between Italy and northern Africa.
Rescue operations began on Saturday and were “complex”, the coastguard said, confirming reports that the two sunken boats had probably set off from the Tunisian port city of Sfax, a hotspot for the country’s migration crisis.
One vessel was carrying 48 people and the other was carrying 42, the Italy-based Ansa news agency has reported.
The Italian coastguard has confirmed that a woman and a child on board one of the boats lost their lives. They are reported to be a mother and her one-year-old child from the Ivory Coast.
Sicilian police chief Emanuele Ricifari told local media that whoever allowed the boats to sail in such bad weather “is a crazy criminal with no scruples”.
The tragic loss of a mother and child comes as more than 2,000 people have arrived in Lampedusa in the last few days after being rescued at sea by Italian patrol boats and NGO (non-governmental organisation) groups amid strong winds around the island.
Rescue efforts by Italian authorities and others have been in the spotlight recently, and questions remain about why 94 people died in a horror shipwreck just 200 metres from the coast of Italy.
On Sunday, mountain rescuers were deployed to pick up 20 people who had been stuck on a cliff on the island for more than 24 hours after their boat hit rocks on arrival in Lampedusa, local media said.
Meanwhile, NGO group Open Arms wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that it had begun disembarking 195 rescued people in the southern Italian port of Brindisi, after more than two days of sailing in rough seas.
Italy’s right-wing government has a policy of assigning far-away ports to charity ships, rather than letting them disembark in Lampedusa or Sicily, with the aim of spreading arrivals across the country.
NGOs say this increases their navigation costs, prolongs the misery of survivors, and reduces the amount of time charity ships can patrol areas of the Mediterranean where shipwrecks are more common.
More than 114,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe by sea so far this year, according to the UN High Commissioner For Refugees.
More than 2,000 people have died or gone missing trying to reach Europe via Mediterranean routes.