Italy's coast guard says rescuers have saved 144 migrants from a capsized boat north of Libya, and spotted nine bodies.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Filippo Marini told Sky TG24 TV that a search is continuing Monday in case there are more bodies. While the exact number of migrants aboard the boat when it set out wasn't immediately known, Marini said the vessel had the capacity to carry more people.

Nearby cargo ships have joined vessels from Italy's coast guard, navy and border police in the search. Aircraft are also being used.

By Monday morning, Navy and coast guard vessels had rescued some 2,800 migrants in separate operations in a 48-hour period in the sea south of Sicily.

Smugglers often use rickety boats or abandon the migrants during the voyage.