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Migrant crisis: Many feared dead in Mediterranean, say Italian coastguard

Latest victims bring the number of migrants confirmed to have died or disappeared in the Mediterranean so far this year to 4,655
Migrants and refugees on a rubber boat in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast on 3 November 2016 (AFP)

At least eight people died and "many" more are missing, feared dead, after migrant boats are believed to have sunk in the Mediterranean, Italy's coastguard and NGOs said on Tuesday.

The coastguard said one of its boats had recovered seven bodies. Another person died on a rescue boat operated by Malta-based charity MOAS and the Red Cross.

The Red Cross said that survivors' accounts suggested "many" people were unaccounted for, including the mother of a young girl who was among the traumatised survivors on MOAS's boat, the Topaz Responder.

"There may be many missing, many dead," Red Cross team coordinator Abdelfetah Mohamed said in a telephone call to colleagues that the humanitarian organisation posted on YouTube, along with still images of the aftermath of the rescues.

"The doctors managed to revive several people with hypothermia but it was too late for one of them," MOAS spokeswoman Maria Teresa Sette told AFP.

'The doctors managed to revive several people with hypothermia but it was too late for one of them'

Maria Teresa Sette, MOAS

The coastguard said a total of around 1,200 people had been rescued during operations overnight and on Tuesday morning.

One wooden vessel was carrying 450-500 people. There were also two smaller wooden boats, as well as the usual overcrowded inflatable dinghies.

The Red Cross said the survivors included migrants from Syria, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and sub-Saharan Africa.

The latest victims will bring the number of migrants confirmed to have died or disappeared in the Mediterranean so far this year to 4,655, according to counts by the International Organisation for Migration and the UN refugee agency.

The rescued survivors bring the total number of migrants who have landed this year in Italy to 168,544 - a record for arrivals. The vast majority came through Africa and began their crossings from Libya.