ROME: Italy's coast guard has rescued about 630 migrants off the coast of Libya who were trying to cross the Mediterranean.
The two rescue operations came as the bodies of 74 migrants who drowned trying to reach Europe washed up on a beach west of the Libyan capital, the Red Crescent said today.
The Italian coast guard said it mounted operations to rescue two drifting vessels, a large boat and a rubber raft.
In the absence of an army or a regular police force in Libya, several militias act as coast guards but are often accused themselves of complicity or even involvement in the people-smuggling business.
The number of attempted crossings has surged this year, with most departures taking place from the west of Libya, from where Italy is just 300 kilometres (190 miles) away.
Europeans are considering measures aimed at blocking the arrival of thousands of migrants, alarming NGOs which fear that those stranded in Libya may suffer mistreatment.