ABOARD THE GOLFO AZZURRO – More than 1,000 migrants have been rescued in the Mediterranean Sea during several operations since Wednesday, and many more are expected to attempt the perilous journey as winter ends.
Rescuers found 332 people on Thursday in three separate rubber boats traveling north of the Libyan coast, according to Proactiva Open Arms, the nonprofit that operates the Golfo Azzurro rescue vessel.
The first boat was located 25 miles offshore. It carried 99 people, including two pregnant women and some passengers with burn injuries, Proactiva spokeswoman Laura Lanuza said.
The nonprofit group found two more boats in the afternoon and rescued all 233 people onboard. The Golfo Azzurro was escorting them to a port in Sicily.
In a separate operation, Italy's coast guard said that some of the 730 migrants rescued during seven different operations Wednesday were brought ashore Thursday.
Migrants attempting to reach Europe from the Mideast and Africa typically are fleeing violence or seeking better economic opportunities.
The International Organization for Migration recorded the arrival to Europe by sea of 13,170 people since the beginning of the year. At least 272 have been reported dead or missing from the dangerous crossing, according to the IOM.