Some 50 migrants found dead in boat off Libya: coast guard

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Some 50 Migrants Found Dead in Boat Off Libya

Some 50 migrants were found dead in the hold of a boat off the coast of Libya on Wednesday during a rescue operation which saved 430 other people, the Italian coast guard said.

Thousands of people, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, have put to sea this year in the hope of reaching Europe, often dangerously packed onto small boats that were never designed to cross the Mediterranean.

SEE MORE: 'The wave has reached us:' EU gropes for answers to migrant surge

A spokeswoman for the Italian coast guard said the Swedish ship Poseidon, working with the European Union's border control agency Frontex, had gone on Wednesday to help a boat in difficulty and had found the bodies.

It was not immediately clear how the migrants died.

More than 100,000 migrants have reached Italy so far this year, but at least 2,300 are believed to have died while trying to make the crossing.

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Some 50 migrants found dead in boat off Libya: coast guard
Migrants disembark from the Italian military ship 'Sfinge' in the port of Augusta, on the eastern coast of Sicily on May 21, 2015. In an unprecedented crisis on Europe's southern shores, around 5,000 people have died in the past 18 months attempting to cross the Mediterranean in a bid to flee war and poverty. AFP PHOTO / GIOVANNI ISOLIN0 (Photo credit should read GIOVANNI ISOLINO/AFP/Getty Images)
Migrants wait to disembark from Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ship in the port of Messina, on May 16, 2015 following rescue operations at sea off the coast of Sicily in partnership with NGO Doctors Without Borders. AFP PHOTO / GIOVANNI ISOLINO (Photo credit should read GIOVANNI ISOLINO/AFP/Getty Images)
Migrants disembark from the Italian military ship 'Sfinge' as they arrived in the port of Augusta, on the eastern coast of Sicily on May 21, 2015. In an unprecedented crisis on Europe's southern shores, around 5,000 people have died in the past 18 months attempting to cross the Mediterranean in a bid to flee war and poverty. AFP PHOTO / GIOVANNI ISOLIN0 (Photo credit should read GIOVANNI ISOLINO/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman holds her baby as she arrives in the port of Catania following a rescue operation of 617 migrants off the coast of Sicily by British vessel HMS Bulwark, on May 14, 2015. AFP PHOTO / GIUSI COSENTINO (Photo credit should read GIUSI COSENTINO/AFP/Getty Images)
Migrants from sub-Saharan Africa sit at a center for illegal migrants in the al-Karem district of the Libyan eastern port city of Misrata on May 9, 2015, as they wait to be transported to a different detention center. Mohammed Khalifa al-Guwail, the acting prime minister of Libya's disputed government, urged European Union countries to help his administration tackle illegal immigration by sending boats for the coastguard. AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD TURKIA (Photo credit should read MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images)
Migrants wait to disembark from the Italian Navy corvette Sfinge at the Augusta harbor, near Siracusa, Sicily, Italy, Thursday, May 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi)
A coffin is disembarked from the Italian Navy ship Sfinge at the Augusta harbor, near Siracusa, Sicily, Italy, Thursday, May 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi)
An Italian Coast Guard ship carrying migrants arrives at Pozzallo's harbor near Ragusa, Sicily, Italy, Tuesday, May 19, 2015. European Union nations approved plans Monday for a naval operation that will go after the human trafficking networks that are sending thousands of migrants weekly across the Mediterranean toward Europe or to their deaths. The International Organization for Migration estimates that just 1,820 migrants have died or gone missing on the sea route to Europe this year compared to just over 200 in the same period last year. (AP Photo/Carmelo Imbesi)
Migrants wait to be disembarked from the Italian Navy ship Espero, at the Reggio Calabria harbor, southern Italy, Saturday, May 16, 2015. The shipwreck off the coast of Libya last month galvanized the European Union to devise a strategy to try to stop human trafficking, which often brings thousands of migrants daily to southern Italy after they are rescued at sea. (AP Photo/Adriana Sapone)
Rescued migrants are seen aboard the Monte Sperone ship of the Italian border police in the Mediterranean Sea, heading to the Island of Lampedusa, southern Italy, Thursday, May 14, 2015. The Monte Sperone takes part in the Frontex's Triton Operation patrolling waters off Italy. Triton currently has 10 patrol vessels, three offshore patrol ships, three aircraft and two helicopters at its disposal. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Rescued migrants are seen aboard the Monte Sperone ship of the Italian border police in the Mediterranean Sea, heading to the Island of Lampedusa, southern Italy, Thursday, May 14, 2015. The Monte Sperone takes part in the Frontex's Triton Operation patrolling waters off Italy. Triton currently has 10 patrol vessels, three offshore patrol ships, three aircraft and two helicopters at its disposal. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)
Migrants line up to enter a Red Cross tent after disembarking from the Migrant Offshore Aid Station vessel ' Phoenix ' in the harbor of Augusta, Sicily, Southern Italy, Saturday, May 9, 2015. European Union plans to introduce a quota system obliging countries to share the burden of settling refugees unraveled Friday as member nations began rejecting the scheme. (AP Photo/Francesco Malavolta)
A Syrian child sleeps outside the Central Asylum Center as other leave the building during a protest over a lack of translator facilities and the slow asylum process in Athens, Thursday, May 14, 2015. This year has seen a significant increase in the numbers of refugees from war-torn Middle Eastern and African countries, as well as economic migrants, crossing illegally to Greece. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Migrants arrive on the ship of Hellenic coast guard at the port of Lesbos island on April 30, 2015. Since Greece bolstered controls along its land border with Turkey along the Evros River, illegal migrants have turned to the maritime route between Turkey and the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, notably Lesvos, Samos, Kos and Chios. Out of the 283,000 migrants caught illegally entering the European Union in 2014, more than 220,000 arrived via the Mediterranean Sea, according to EU officials. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Refugees and immigrants take part in a demonstration against the policies of European union for migrants in Athens, on April 22, 2015. European governments came under increasing pressure to tackle the Mediterranean's migrant crisis ahead of an emergency summit, as harrowing details emerged of the fate of hundreds who died in the latest tragedy. AFP PHOTO / Angelos Tzortzinis (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Officers of Hellenic coast guard carry a Syrian migrant who was rescued and suffered from hypothermia as he tried to cross the sea borders of Greece at the port of Lesbos island on April 30, 2015. Since Greece bolstered controls along its land border with Turkey along the Evros River, illegal migrants have turned to the maritime route between Turkey and the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, notably Lesvos, Samos, Kos and Chios. Out of the 283,000 migrants caught illegally entering the European Union in 2014, more than 220,000 arrived via the Mediterranean Sea, according to EU officials. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A young migrant looks through a police bus window in the port of Lesvos island on April 17, 2015. Since Greece bolstered controls along its land border with Turkey, along the Evros River, illegal immigrants have turned to the maritime route between Turkey and the Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, notably Lesvos, Samos, Kos and Chios. 2015 started with a major increase in the number of Aegean crossings : 10,445 against 2,863 in the same period of 2014, according to the Greek port police. AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS (Photo credit should read ANGELOS TZORTZINIS/AFP/Getty Images)
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Emergency services received 10 calls for help from various boats in difficulty on Wednesday, all in an area around 30 miles (50 km) from the Libya coast, the spokeswoman said.

An Italian coast guard vessel saved 113 people from a partially-deflated rubber boat, but one passenger, who was already fighting for their life, died soon after.

The Poseidon had earlier saved 130 people from another rubber boat and a merchant ship picked up 225 people in a separate operation.

An Irish coast guard ship is in the process of rescuing up to 500 people from another boat, the spokeswoman said.

(Reporting by Antonella Cinelli, writing by Isla Binnie; Editing by Crispian Balmer)

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