ROME — Italy’s coast guard and border police motorboats rescued 47 migrants whose small wooden boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea south of a tiny Italian island early Saturday.
The coast guard said in a statement that migrants were being transferred to the Italian vessels when the boat overturned some 15 miles south of Lampedusa island.
After tossing life vests into the water, coast guard and police officers helped the struggling travelers aboard.
A coast guard helicopter based in Sicily and other coast guard and border police motorboats searched the area in case anyone was missing.
Italian state radio said five people were possibly missing but that there was no official confirmation.
Human traffickers based in Libya and Tunisia launch overcrowded, unseaworthy rubber dinghies and aging fishing boats toward European shores. The migrants, coming from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, are hoping to find family members or jobs in Europe.
Over the last several years, hundreds of thousands of migrants have reached Italy either on their own or after being rescued at sea.