The Spanish charity Open Arms has rescued 372 people seeking to cross the central Mediterranean Sea to Europe in unseaworthy boats in three operations over a 24-hour period and recovered the corpse of one man who had been shot, officials said Sunday.
The rescue ship Open Arms Uno remained at sea and is seeking a safe port for the rescued people, including some who need medical attention and many who are suffering dehydration, said Laura Lanuza, an Open Arms spokeswoman.
She said they have made at least two requests for a safe port in Malta.
In the largest rescue, the Open Arms picked up 294 people, mostly Egyptians, from an overcrowded barge in waters south of Malta in a nighttime operation that spanned nearly five hours before dawn Sunday.
The people rescued said they had been at sea for four days, and many were suffering dehydration.
The packed boat had been spotted by volunteer pilots combing the Mediterranean for people in distress, and a photo posted shows the decks packed with people waving for help.
Before that, the Open Arms rescued 59 migrants from Syria, Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea, among them 10 minors, from an oil platform in Tunisian waters, with the aid of oil workers who helped the migrants onto the rescue ship.
Still in the flimsy boat was the wrapped body of a migrant who had been shot on shore by smugglers, Lanuza said.
"The smugglers forced the people to take the corpse with them. They spent a day or so at sea, and kept the corpse until they were saved,'' Lanuza said.
On Saturday morning, the Open Arms rescued 19 people from a rubber dinghy off Libya.
They included 16 people from Syria.
An AP photographer on board the Open Arms said that during each rescue, desperate people flung themselves into the water, complicating the rescue.