A BABY is among six people who have died after a Europe-bound rubber boat carrying 116 migrants split into two in the Mediterranean Sea.
Rescuers had been frantically searching for the dinghy in distress for hours before finally locating it in international waters north of Libya.
It is understood the migrants were heading towards Italy, which is the primary route for migrants departing mostly from Tunisia and Libya to reach Europe.
Some 30,800 people have arrived so far in 2020, with numbers picking up again after years of decline.
Italy has tried to stop charity rescue ships with huge fines and stepped up support of the Libyan coastguard in its attempts to intercept boats and thwart lucrative people smuggling rackets.
The tragedy unfolded yesterday just as a rescue vessel belonging to a Spanish migrant charity had just finished distributing life vests and masks to the passengers.
Just as they began transferring them to safety, the flimsy boat split in two, throwing them into cold waters.
Rescuers pulled out 111 people, including two infants, alive and recovered five bodies.
But one of the two infants, a six-month-old girl, died after being brought on board the rescue ship.
Spokesperson Laura Lanuza said they had asked Italian and Maltese maritime authorities for the immediate evacuation of six people in serious condition, including two babies and their mothers and a pregnant woman.
She said before the disaster they had already rescued 88 migrants the night before and was headed to a third distress call.
The shipwreck was the second recorded this week in waters north of Libya, a key transit point for migrants from Africa and the Middle East.
On Tuesday another 13 migrants died, including a child, the UN said.
So far this year more than 575 people have perished in the Central Mediterranean trying to reach Europe, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
Some 30,800 people have arrived so far in 2020, with numbers picking up again after years of decline marked by an Italian-led effort to disrupt smuggling networks and support the Libyan coastguard in its attempts to intercept boats.
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