About 340 migrants have died or gone missing in four Mediterranean Sea shipwrecks over the past two and a half days, a migration organisation says.
Another 580 people were pulled from overcrowded boats.
Flavio Di Giacomo, Italy spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration, said that brings to over 4,500 the number of migrants who have died or disappeared so far this year making the risky sea voyage, the deadliest year on record.
He said the recent toll includes a rescue overnight by Doctors Without Borders of 27 migrants, who reported that more than 130 people had been on board their rubber dinghy when it sank. Seven bodies were recovered.
Di Giacomo said the toll is increasing this year as smugglers are forcing departures despite rough winter seas.
On Monday a rubber boat ripped and flipped over with about 150 on board, UN refugee agency spokesman Iosta Ibba quoted some of the 15 survivors as saying when they arrived in Catania on Sicily’s east coast.
On Tuesday, 23 people were brought to safety by another tanker after a rubber dinghy carrying about 122 deflated, said SOS Mediterranee, which operates rescue ship Aquarius. Four bodies were recovered.
Almost 500 migrants arrived at the port of Catania on Wednesday, including those from Monday’s shipwreck, as the influx of refugees heading to Europe showed no signs of abating.
There were a record 27,383 arrivals in Italy in October, according to the interior ministry. As of November 16th, arrivals were already more than double the same month last year amid worsening sea conditions.