At least 29 people die of hypothermia on smuggler's life raft
At least 29 migrants have died at sea from hypothermia while travelling from North Africa to Italy aboard a smuggler's life raft in heavy seas, the Italian coast guard said.
The victims were among more than 100 people packed aboard the inflatable life raft who were trying to cross the Mediterranean in rough seas and freezing temperatures, according to coast guard commander Filippo Marini.
The migrants had summoned help via satellite phone when they were 100 miles off the coast of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.
Mr Marini said a merchant ship in the area responded until the coast guard arrived and took on board both the survivors and the victims in seas with waves as high as nine metres (30 feet).
Since the beginning of 2014, more than 150,000 migrants have arrived in Italy on unseaworthy boats, many refugees of war and conflict.
Hundreds die each year trying to make the crossing, including 360 migrants who died off Lampedusa in November 2013.
The desperation of migrants seeking a better life in Europe has fuelled a boom in human trafficking.
Around new year, Italian authorities found and seized two cargo boats full of mostly Syrian migrants that were programmed to sail straight into the Italian coast after smugglers had abandoned the helm.