Spain's Maritime Rescue Service has found 14 bodies in the sea and rescued 17 people after a boat carrying migrants from Morocco began to sink in the Mediterranean.

Search operations are continuing because a rescue official told The Associated Press that one of the migrants said about 70 people had been on the boat. The official spoke under departmental rules of anonymity.

A Coast Guard plane spotted the boat Thursday afternoon following a tip-off that it had left Morocco and was heading to Spain. Those on the boat are believed to be from sub-Saharan Africa.

Each year thousands of suspected illegal immigrants from Africa try to reach Europe by setting sail in small, fragile boats.