Jan. 19 (UPI) -- More than 100 migrants apparently died when a rubber dinghy capsized off Libya, according to a rescue official Saturday.
Two days ago, the vessel left the North African country and it sank in the Mediterranean on Friday morning, Sky News reported.
An Italian military plane first spotted the dinghy about 50 nautical miles northeast of the Libyan capital Tripoli, and threw two safety rafts into the water but retreated due to a lack of fuel. Another helicopter was dispatched from a naval ship and recovered three survivors, who were taken to a hospital on the island of Lampedusa with severe hypothermia.
Libya dispatched a merchant ship to the area but it left after it was unable to find more survivors.
Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, said three of the apparently 120 migrants were found alive.
"The three survivors told us they were 120 when they left Garabulli in Libya on Thursday night," he said. "After 10 to 11 hours at sea, the boat started sinking and people started drowning."
Ten women, including a pregnant girl, and two children, one of whom was only 2 months old, were aboard, Di Giacomo said.
The New York Times reported the migrants were believed to have been from West Africa and Sudan. The survivors were two Sudanese and one Gambian.
There have been 83 migrant deaths this year and nearly 2,300 migrants last year as a result of people trying to cross the Mediterranean, IOM reported. And the number of migrants and refugees landing on European shores reached 4,216 in the first 16 days of 2019 compared to 2,365 over the same period in 2018, according to IOM.
"As long as European ports will remain open, sea-traffickers will continue to do business and kill people," Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said