LÉ Niamh heading to Sicily after saving 551 migrants left adrift in wooden barge
Irish Navy vessel LÉ Niamh has rescued 551 people from a wooden barge left adrift in the Mediterranean.
Shortly after 10am (GMT), the ship was tasked with investigating a possible sighting of a migrant vessel off the coast of northwest Libya.
Some 55 kilometres north of Zuwarah, a main port city near the Tunisian border, the LÉ Niamh came across an old fishing boat with close to 700 people onboard.
Assessing the situation, the crew of the Irish vessel deployed two inflatable boats and began to transfer some 551 migrants across.
Among those taken on board were 384 men, 96 women, and 71 children.
The Italian Marine Rescue Co Ordination Centre deployed a further four vessels to assist in the operation, which ended at 8:30 pm Irish time, according to a spokesperson for the Defence Forces.
The LÉ Niamh is currently enroute to Trapani in Sicily and is expected to arrive at 3pm tomorrow.
To date, 2548 migrants have been rescued by the crew of the LÉ Niamh.